The Hon Patrick Gorman MP Radio interview – ABC Mornings with Nadia Mitsopoulos

Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, Assistant Minister for the Public Service

NADIA MITSOPOULOS, HOST: Just wondering about how you think this government is traveling under Anthony Albanese? 1300 222 720. You can text if you like, on 0437 922 720 and don’t hold back because I do have in the studio with me, Anthony Albanese’s right hand man, Patrick Gorman, he is the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and of course the Labor Member for Perth. Welcome, nice to see you.

PATRICK GORMAN, ASSISTANT MINISTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER AND ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR THE PUBLIC SERVICE: Thank you, Nadia, great to be here and Western Australians never hold back. So I’m sure we’ll get lots of great ideas from your listeners.

MITSOPOULOS: Oh, well, they know the number they can call 1300 222 720. We will get on to the by-election in a moment. First, though, some sad news this morning about the passing of one of your colleagues.

GORMAN: Yeah, we woke this morning to the really sad news that our Senator Linda White, Senator from Victoria has passed away. Some people who are on your program wouldn’t have heard much about Linda’s work. But I think in terms of what she did for the Labor Party on our national executive, in terms of what she’s done for women getting equal pay and more superannuation in her work with the Australian Services Union. And her work happens without the National Anti-Corruption Commission. It is a huge loss. She was a great friend to so many of us. And just thoughts to all of her friends across the country who are really missing her today.

MITSOPOULOS: I’m sure your colleagues and her family friends will appreciate their sentiments. Thank you, Patrick Gorman. Let’s look at a couple of other issues. You’re in Perth today as part of a traveling roadshow, if you like, is this some sort of a career change in running off to join the circus?

GORMAN: Thankfully for everyone who will be attending the State of the Service Roadshow today, there is no singing for me, there are no circus acts. We’re just talking about policy and how we get the most for the Australian public out of the Public Service. This is something that we do every year talking to the 170,000 Australian public servants who make sure that our Public Service works smoothly and delivers services on which we all rely. But it’s important for me as an Assistant Minister for the Public Service to be in front of them, hearing what they want from government taking their feedback. It is the first time that we’ve ever launched it in Perth. So that is something that I’m really looking forward to at the Convention Centre in just a couple of hours.

MITSOPOULOS: Okay, so one of the topics on the list is flexible workplaces. So do you think people should have the right to work from home? If their job can be done from home? Do you think that there needs to be an enshrined right?

GORMAN: Well, we have included that in a range of the new agreements. That we’ve started to agree to with workers across the public service. But the underlying principle is still a marriage, making sure we get the services and policy advice that the public needs. So it has to work both ways. Now, if I look at myself this morning, I was able to come in to your studio at nine o’clock because I was dropping off my kids to school, it’s important that people have some of that flexibility that they would have in other workplaces. But it’s got to work. I recognize there are people who work in frontline roles in the public service, people who work in Border Force, people who work for the Department of Agriculture, doing really physical in person work and so we’re going to make sure it works for everyone. That we are not giving too many benefits to one part of the workforce without giving it to another. While also recognizing that we’ve got so much technology that allows people to do their best work in the best way possible, which isn’t always sitting at a desk in an office,

MITSOPOULOS: You’ve got some bosses who say, “No”, you can’t work from home, “you have to come into the office”. Should workers be able to push back and say “No, this is my right.”

GORMAN: Well, ultimately what we want to say is what you were talking about outside of the public service to the broader world. What we want to say is that been done in agreement. That’s the foundational principle of our enterprise bargaining system is that workers and employers agree on things and I just talked through what the needs are for their workplace. I recognize their workplaces, like a cafe where work from home just, it’s not on the table. So you look at what other things can you do to support your employees. But also there are workplaces where they have been asking people to work from home in recent years, they have discovered some real benefits from that. So we have to find that balance for each individual workplace. I don’t believe that I can sit in your studio and say, “Here’s what works for every worker and every employer across the country”. What I want is for workers and employers to come to agreement about what’s best for the services, products that they need to deliver. That’s what we do in the public service, and I think that’s a pretty good principle

MITSOPOULOS: And is that a bit of an unknown because I noticed Okay, services Australian now I don’t have the detail of which workers would be able to work from home. The Services Australia is in quite pickle at the moment with something like 1.1 million unprocessed Pension Claims, they appreciate 3000 more people have been hired to try and deal with that. But the concern is that there’s no guarantee that you can match the productivity.

GORMAN: Well, I think on those concerns that I get those in my office where people people say, “I’ve got my paperwork in, where is it?”. One of the things we did in the last financial year, we added 11,000 additional public servants, knowing what backlogs went on to address themselves. We need capable professional public servants. Looking at those I went met with some of the team from who do those processing for Medicare in the CBD the other day, there were people who were working from home from that time, you could physically say that, but they were also telling me about how they’ve been able to increase their throughput, which is ultimately, if I’m accountable to the taxpayers of Australia. That’s what they want to see. They want the outcome. They want to make sure that when you put a Medicare claim in or a pension claim in, you it gets processed carefully, properly, in accordance with the rules as fast as possible.

MITSOPOULOS: Okay, so those public servants so we talk about that of secure those new working from home rights you’ve got Innes Willox from the Australian industry group, calling it a “Nauseating confirmation of how far out of touch the federal public service, the unions and the government are from workplace reality.” He then went on to say, “The last thing we need is for their stay at home first attitude to infect our broader economy.” How do you respond to that?

GORMAN: Well, I talk about what I hear from public servants when I go and visit them in their workplaces, whether it be here in the Perth CBD, be it in Geraldton or Albany, I’ll be out in Geelong next week visiting the National Disability Insurance Agency. What I hear from them is they’re really proud of their work, they want the best they take those public service values of doing their work professionally, ethically, impartially, very seriously. And I’d also say to people who sometimes think that the public service is somewhere over there, you know, the Commonwealth public service, 8000 of them are here in WA. These are our friends, our neighbors, our family members. They’re not, they’re not somewhere disconnected from the rest of our society. And so what I want is professional public servants to have a great career. It is a fantastic career for any of your listeners who are thinking about a career change. And I want to make sure that we give them the support to do their job well, because ultimately, we’ve seen what happens when public services aren’t delivered. No one wins.

MITSOPOULOS: Patrick Gorman is my guest this morning, the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and the Labor Member for Perth. The union that represents public sector workers here in WA, yesterday started pushing for a pilot four day working week, and they want to pay rise as well. Is that taking things too far?

GORMAN: I’m not across the detail of –

MITSOPOULOS: It’s pretty simple: work four days a week, but give us a pay rise as well. That’s it. That’s all you need to know, seriously, like, people didn’t like it.

GORMAN: What we know, is that when there’s these agreements being made, there’s hundreds of claims and counteroffers. There’s a lot of detail behind it. We’ve just gone through bargaining at the Commonwealth level. So I’m, I’m not going to oversimplify things other than to say, I think, Rikki Hendon, the leader of the CPSU here in WA, has the interest of her members at heart, and that’s her job. Roger Cook, as Premier of Western Australia has the interests of all West Australians and West Australian taxpayers at heart. That’s his job. And together, it’s their job to sit down and negotiate it out –

MITSOPOULOS: Such a diplomatic answer.

GORMAN: But I’m not going to – I don’t think, you know, I know how I feel sometimes when, you know, we have state politicians try to tell us how to run the federal government. I’m not going to tell the state government how to run their negotiations.

MITSOPOULOS: Alright, let’s look at the Dunkley By-Election now your government, you know, pretty important by-election tomorrow. The seat of Dunkley in Victoria does sound like a pretty tight race. Now, I just wonder if you feel like the Albanese government has lost its mojo a little bit, particularly since you lost the voice referendum.

GORMAN: I’ve just come out of Parliament for the week. So I got in last night. And what I really felt was that we were focused on exactly what people here who want us to be focused on really straightforward things, getting the tax cuts through the Senate. We thought that was going to take longer to get through because we had so many people trying to block it or amend it. We got that through. I think that’s what people want us to be working on. We have got the Help to Buy legislation, which is actually something that is based on a program that’s I find that the debate around helped by it’s one of those ones where I just feel like I’m in a parallel universe help devise based on KeyStart. KeyStart here in WA has helped 120,000 West Australians into homes now we’ve got WA Greens and WA Liberal senators trying to block it. That’s the stuff I’m focused on. There was a referendum last year, but we did a lot last year. We got Cheaper Child Care through last year, we got our Fee-Free Tafe through last year, Cheaper Medicines, record investment in Medicare bulk billing. Commonwealth Governments have to do a lot and I’m pleased that we can do all of those pieces that are important into people, including keeping our commitments around giving people their democratic rights.

MITSOPOULOS: Okay and if I just go back to the Voice because we actually spoke after that referendum, and you know, you were sounding and feeling pretty flat, but you spent so much of your political capital on the Voice, it was a devastating loss. Would you agree for the Prime Minister?

GORMAN: Well, I think we kept that commitment. That’s how I think of it, I respect that Australia is one of the great democracies of the world. We put a question to the Australian people, we knew it was going to be tough.

MITSOPOULOS: Do you regret going to a referendum, in hindsight, and I’m hindsight is a great thing. But do you think it was a mistake taking that to a referendum?

GORMAN: I don’t think that you can go around thinking about regrets or things you’ve actually got to go well, did I stay true to what I said to the people who put me into Parliament? And when it comes to the referendum? Yes, I did. Do I respect for the decision they made? Yes, I do. Did I get on with the job doing what I’m doing today talking to 400 public servants in person about how we give Australians the best public services for the future? Yeah, that’s what you do, and also do all those other things I was talking about Help to Buy, tax cuts, making sure that, you know, we’ve got I mentioned earlier, the National Anti-Corruption Commission, making sure that we’ve got those things around integrity going. I am pleased that I can actually look at my constituents in the eye at a mobile office in Joondanna and say, you know, we’ve got a comprehensive program. Just as I was happy to keep my commitment to give people a say, on constitutional recognition. I also want to keep my commitment about getting Help to Buy rolled out nationally.

MITSOPOULOS: Okay. And then you say, you stay true to what you said. And people could argue, well, that didn’t apply to everything, like stage three tax cuts.

GORMAN: And that’s why I’ve written to everyone in my electorate with information about those tax cuts. I’ve held mobile offices to give people a chance to come and give their views. When you change a big policy, like tax policy, the burden upon government is to explain why. And I think we explained it so well, that you even saw Liberal, Greens and Independent senators and members, this week, in previous sitting week, vote for those tax cuts, because it was the right thing to do. And ultimately, I’m happy to explain that to your listeners, and anyone who reaches out to me.

MITSOPOULOS: A couple of other issues at 19 past nine, I’m talking to Patrick Gorman, the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister. One of the key players in that referendum. The Voice referendum was a right wing lobby group called Advanced Australia. They’ve invested heavily in attack ads against Labor in the Dunkley by-election, will that have any impact?

GORMAN: Well, obviously, when you’re spending hundreds of hundreds of thousands of dollars on a by-election, you’re spending those hundreds of thousands of dollars because you’re seeking to shift how people vote. That’s what Advanced Australia is seeking to do. We’ve seen a little bit of information about where some of that money is coming from. One of the things I’m really concerned about with Advanced Australia that I don’t think has been examined enough is that: They really clear what they are against but they actually have no suggestions what they are for. There is nothing from advanced Australia that says, here’s a solution to a policy challenge. It’s just all negativity, all attack ads all the time. What I think we are also saying that by-election is Advance Australia, doing the dirty work, for Peter Dutton, so he can smile more, soften his image. Again, even with Dutton, in the by-election, not a single policy proposal put forward and I think Australian people deserve better than that from Advanced Australia and their mates in the Liberal Party.

MITSOPOULOS: If there is a swing against the government in that seat. Do you take that on notice? Is that a warning sign for you?

GORMAN: We have been really clear that by-elections are tough. The average swing is about 7 per cent. I think we saw the we saw about 7 per cent swing against the government in recent by-elections here in WA. That is, kind of what you see so we acknowledge that this will be a very close by-election. I’ve been texting a candidate, Jodie Belyea, during the week wishing her the best. I came into Parliament during a by-election. It’s a pretty tough experience. You do feel the pressure of everyone’s hopes relying on you. But she’s a fantastic candidate. She’s normal. She is a working mum in Frankston. She has been pretty upfront about who she is and what she wants to do for the community. And Peta Murphy who I miss dearly in the parliament, went out and found this candidate. In my exchanges with Jodie, it has been pretty clear why Peta thought she would make such a great representative of that community in government.

MITSOPOULOS: Okay, it is 22 past 9. That politician who sold out country according to ASIO, do you think he should be named?

GORMAN: Well, I take the advice of our security agencies including Mike Burgess very seriously when they say that, it is not necessary to name that individual, I respect that advice.

MITSOPOULOS: But then doesn’t that put a cloud of all those former MPs, you know, people are going, “Is it this person? Is it this person?” It has a sort of a dark cloud hanging on them is that fair?

GORMAN: I think the point that was being made, was that we all be it a sitting Member of Parliament or former Member of Parliament. We all have a role to uphold our national interest to uphold our security interests.

MITSOPOULOS: So, this person gets away with it with no penalty, how is that fair? If that was a public servant, don’t you think it would have been very different? They would have been named. They would have been shamed, they probably would have been charged.

GORMAN: But when you say that you respect the advice of our security agencies, you’ve got to stand by that. And I accept that the advice of our security agencies was that it was necessary to put that information out to send a message to all who work in the political government systems and indeed in other areas, such as media and academia, to make sure that we are all conscious at all times in all our dealings. But there are those who seek to interfere in Australia’s democratic processes. We don’t want to have any of that. Anyway, not here in WA, not in the Commonwealth. No where. And so when I say that this was released as a warning, I welcome that. But I also respect that when the Director General of ASIO says that it’s not necessary to name the individual. I accept that advice.

MITSOPOULOS: Brian Burke, is he still is toxic now as he was seven years ago? Is this an overreaction, people having phone calls within and then losing their jobs. You were State Secretary of the Labor Party. So I’ll assume he was on your no-go zone?

GORMAN: I have never interacted with that man. I think ultimately, what we’ve seen this week in state politics has been more about sort of, when you set a marker, you’ve got to hold the line and what we saw with some of the applications that were put forward from the Liberal Party, and then turned out that they didn’t even have their own house in order. I mean, that was pretty spectacular. You know, I’d say a week like that in state politics very often, I mean, I’ve looked at the work that former Premiers, that I admire people like Geoff Gallop, he has gone on to do fantastic work in academia. I have seen him in Sydney a few times, he is loving life. I would say when you move on from politics, move on and make a contribution elsewhere. That is what I think Geoff Gallop and Carmen Lawrence got right. That’s a good thing. That’s the model I think people should follow.

MITSOPOULOS: Lovely to talk to you, thank you for coming in.

GORMAN: Thank you.

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