Transcript: Sky News 14/11/2019

1.15pm | December 20, 2019



SUBJECTS: Bushfires; Wage Theft Inquiry.



ANNELISE NIELSEN, HOST: Joining us today is Jenny McAllister, live from Parliament House, where the Senate is sitting this week. Jenny, thank you for your time.


Now we will get to the Wage Theft Inquiry which you are going to be working with, but just on this climate change story with these former emergency chiefs, how much of a response would they be expecting to get from a Prime Minister requesting a meeting, when he's in caretaker mode?


JENNY MCALLISTER, LABOR SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES: Annelise I'm not familiar with the explicit timing around this letter. I suppose the point I'd make is that we're still in a very difficult situation in New South Wales. I think your reporter was reporting earlier that we're expecting some very hot days going into the weekend, particularly in the North Coast, my patch. Our focus remains on the victims, the people who are grieving, people who have lost property. We've got some really difficult times ahead of us in New South Wales.


NIELSEN: And in the midst of these difficult times, do you think it is appropriate to be talking about climate change or should we be talking about how to respond now?


MCALLISTER: There is no day when I don't think it’s important to talk about climate change and the importance of climate action, but we've been very clear that when there is an operational emergency underway, it is not the time to be seeking to score political points. What people who are on the ground, facing down really horrible circumstances, need to hear from their political representatives in Canberra is total unqualified support for them and the operational response. And so playing politics with the issue is not an appropriate response at this time. Our focus has to be with the communities and the very immediate risks they are facing today and this week.


NIELSEN: Now, we move to this Wage Theft Inquiry which Labor is bringing on. What will it achieve hopefully from your perspective?


MCALLISTER: Look, my experience is that an inquiry absolutely focuses the mind, it brings all of the stakeholders to the table, and it allows a public discussion about the problem. It has been five years since we learnt about the wage theft at 7/11. Five years when the Government could have taken action to protect workers from employers who deliberately or accidentally are underpaying them. Nothing has been done. This is an endemic problem across the economy. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being withheld every year from thousands of employees and it is contributing to low wage growth and it is fundamentally unfair. 


NIELSEN: There's always going to be a certain proportion of the population that will engage in this kind of behaviour, that's why we have courts. What would you actually change to stop this happening in the future?


MCALLISTER: Look, the inquiry is going to look at what needs to happen. We would like to look at the compliance mechanisms, what we can do to uncover wage theft. We'd like to look at the penalty regime, whether it's adequate. We don't think it's adequate at the moment. We'd like to look at mechanisms that can prevent wage theft in the first instance. And we'd also like to look at whether or not the legal arrangements which allocate responsibility for wage theft are appropriate in their scope. We want to have a comprehensive look at all of the issues around this. There have been previous inquiries that have looked at elements of the problem or individual examples of the problem, but the Government has failed to act for five years, and if the Government fails to act, then I think it's probably necessary for the Senate to step in and chart a path forward.


NIELSEN: Jenny McAllister, thank you for your time:


MCALLISTER: Thanks Annelise.