Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard with 9 Network Political Editor Laurie Oakes
TODAY Weekend Edition, 14 June 2009
LO: Speaking of construction sites, you're coming under strong attack from the unions over your insistence that there's got to be a separate policing body to deal with the construction industry. Will we see your legislation this week? And how much will the unions win?
JG: Well, when we went to the last election, we gave a very clear commitment that we would abolish the Australian building and construction commission and replace it on the 1st of February next year with a new tough cop on the beat in building and construction. We've had His Honour Murray Wilcox give us a comprehensive report with safeguards for the controversial coercive powers that the current building industry watchdog has. Laurie, it is my intention to bring to the Parliament this week legislation. It will be dealt with by Labor caucus on Tuesday. It will honour our promise to abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission. It will respond to the recommendations of what I thought was a very good report by His Honour Murray Wilcox. And, of course, it will require substantial change to current Commonwealth legislation, particularly the building construction industry improvement act.
LO: Will this stop the unions squealing? Or do you expect a further stoush?
JG: Well, the union movement's made it quite clear that it doesn't agree with the promise that the Government gave in 2007. The union movement obviously thought - well, particularly, the construction unions - that we should have moved immediately to get rid of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, and obviously, they debate whether there is a need for a specialist inspectorate here. Laurie, from the Government's point of view, that debate has been had and it's over. We gave the Australian people a promise and we'll be honouring that promise.
LO: Well, you say the debate is over, but the unions seem determined to push this at Labor's national conference next month. If the conference backs them, will the Government be influenced by that decision?
JG: Well, there will be a clear Government position arising from our discussions in Labor caucus this week, where obviously, each of my Labor colleagues will get to consider the proposition I'm going to put to them and the kind of legislation that should come before the Parliament. That will be the Government's way of honouring our election commitment and our response to the very good report of Murray Wilcox.
LO: But aren't Labor MPs bound by conference decisions, if the conference comes out on the union's side, won't you have to give in?
JG: Well, the Government position will be clear this week, Laurie, and that will be the position that the Government seeks to move through the Parliament. As you would be aware, we don't have the numbers in the Senate –
LO: You ignore the national conference of the party?
JG: Well, what we do is we make the Government's position clear, Laurie. We were elected to govern. We were elected with a set of promises. This is a Government that's priding itself - does pride itself - on delivering what it promised to the Australian people. We've done that around a range of areas, in my own portfolios of the education, with the education revolution – we’ve been delivering what we’ve promised.
LO: But you're dodging the question. I hate to accuse you of doing that. But I asked you whether you would bow to any decision by the national conference or whether what you put through Parliament is final?
JG: Laurie, we will go to national conference and we will be making clear at national conference what the position of the Government is. That position will be clear this week.
LO: And the conference can go jump if it doesn't like it?
JG: Well, the Government's position will be clear, Laurie.
For the transcript of Laurie Oakes' entire interview with Julia Gillard, click here.