Release type: Transcript


Interview - Channel 9 Weekend Today with Jayne Azzopardi


The Hon Tony Burke MP
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations
Minister for the Arts


SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison’s secret portfolios, Stage Three tax cuts, reducing the gender pay gap.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI, HOST: All right, well, he's no longer the Prime Minister, or the Treasurer, or the Home Affairs Minister, or – I think you're starting to get the picture. And this morning there are reports that Scott Morrison's Liberal colleagues now want him out of Parliament, but not before the New South Wales state election in March. We're joined now by the Minister for Employment and Workplace relations, Tony Burke, and the Nationals Leader, David Littleproud. Welcome to you both.

Hey David.

AZZOPARDI: I'll start with you David, because you were inside that cabinet room. Surely it would be better for the Coalition as a whole if Scott Morrison wasn't there as a distraction.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD, NATIONALS LEADER: Well, that's a matter for Mr Morrison and he has a contract with the people of Cook and obviously he was re-elected as the member for Cook and he'll obviously have those conversations with him and what the Liberal Party does after that will be a matter for them. I lead the Nationals and obviously we'll make sure that we can test that strongly. But I think we need to make sure we look through the lens of this, particularly tomorrow when we get that report. And obviously Mr Morrison has given an explanation. There was some concern, particularly from even some of my Nationals’ colleagues, of the predicament that we've been put in and obviously we want to work through this and we'll be constructive with the government around any recommendations that might come out of it. But Mr. Morrison's future is a matter for Mr. Morrison.

AZZOPARDI: Tony I mean, this has been a bit of a gift for you and the government hasn't, but we will get that report from the Solicitor General tomorrow. What do you expect it to show? And where do you think we will go from here?

BURKE: Well, there's a few issues that we have to unpack here. 

What's the legal situation, both in terms of the appointments and whether there are any risks to decisions that were made. So we'll get some of that information tomorrow. 

We then have to look at whether the rules of the Parliament were broken. 

And then we've got the extra issue that Chris Uhlmann was talking to you about only moments ago, which I've got to say stunned me. And Chris's sources are pretty good. 

So if the Liberal Party is now deciding whether or not Scott Morrison leaves Parliament is based on the timing of another job for another Liberal friend from the New South Wales Parliament – they’ve learnt nothing. 

They've learnt nothing for that to be a consideration at all for both where the New South Wales Parliament at the moment and for everything that Scott Morrison has done, that once again, it's all about jobs for Liberals. 

It's breathtaking.

AZZOPARDI: All right, well, that will be, as David said, an issue for the voters of Cook, but an issue for the voters everywhere really, at the moment is cost of living. 

That is the big issue that everybody's talking about it. So I want to get to the budget. And those stage three tax cuts that are planned for 2024. We know, Minister, these are tax cuts for people with very high incomes. There's analysis out this morning showing it'll overwhelmingly benefit men over women. 

I mean, surely when we're in a state where there are people in this country who can't buy medicine, can't put food on the table, this is something that we could take the money from and put elsewhere.

BURKE: Well, first of all, they're in 2024, so for the cost of living pressures right now, there's nothing where these tax cuts actually make a direct impact. 

Secondly, at the election, we made clear that we believe people should have certainty and we opposed them at the time that they went through the Parliament, but we said once they were in, we were going to leave it. 

But finally, the reason they interact differently for women to men is because women aren't paid enough. And the answer to that is not do you give a tax cut or not, it's to act on pay equity. 

And that's my job as Workplace Relations Minister, is to bring in the legal changes. So the Fair Work Commission starts to take into account where women are paid less. 

It's what we're doing right now for aged care workers in fighting for pay rises in areas where it's predominantly women. But it's not just people who are on awards, it's also people in executive roles. 

At the moment, a whole lot of people have these clauses where they're not allowed to tell their colleagues how much they're paid, which is being used deliberately to keep women's wages lower.

AZZOPARDI: But none of this is going to magically change within two years, when those tax cuts will be legislated. Surely there's room to even out the playing field.

BURKE: Oh, nothing magically changes, but aged care workers will be being paid more and we will have taken action on dealing with the pay equity gap. 

None of it happens magically. It happens because there's a change of government and the government determined to do something about pay equity.

AZZOPARDI: David, these were the Coalition's tax cuts. Would you support any changes to them?

LITTLEPROUD: Well, look, we went to the election, as did Labour, promising these tax cuts, and this would be a breach of faith of the Labor Party. If they walked away from – they’ve already walked away from the $275 they promised to households to reduce their electricity costs. This would be another breach of faith. 

But Burkey's right on this this is where the real essence of this is not about the tax cut when it comes to the pay equity issue. It's about making sure we get the framework right to ensure that women are equitably paid. And that's not just government's responsibility. This is also where the corporates around the world need to step up, and particularly here in Australia, shows that they're doing something about it. 

And I think that they've been hiding behind this bail for a long time, and everyone points the finger at the government. But you know what? Government can't solve everyone's problem. Sometimes you have to take ownership yourself. And I think some of our larger companies have gone missing on this, and I think this would go a long way to making sure we get that pay gender equity that we're all looking for. And the tax cuts are simply there to make sure that we get more money into your pocket. So you decide what to do with it and not go on it.

AZZOPARDI: As long as you earn over $180,000 a year. Thank you both for your time this morning.

BURKE: Great to talk.