FEDERAL Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten says Gilmore Liberal candidate Ann Sudmalis’s comments about workplace relations policy being reviewed after the election signal the Coalition’s intention to abolish penalty rates.
“Mr Abbott’s candidate for Gilmore has let the cat out of the bag and told Australians the truth about the Liberals’ plans for penalty rates after September 7,” Mr Shorten said.
“Ann Sudmalis has made it clear that far from being dead and buried, the Liberals are raring to go with WorkChoices Mark II.”
“This makes a mockery of Tony Abbott’s so called policy on workplace relations. This is further proof the Liberals cannot be trusted on workplace relations.”
Speaking at an ABC Illawarra meet-the-candidates forum in Bomaderry on Wednesday, Mrs Sudmalis reacted angrily to a question about penalty rates from Shoalhaven secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association Annette Aldrick.
“Any workplace relations legislation is on the table after the election not before, so sorry I can’t answer your question,” Mrs Sudmalis snapped.
“It is exactly as it is right now right through to the election and it will be reviewed after the election and that has been perfectly clear to everybody.”
Mrs Sudmalis said Ms Aldrick’s question was like fiction.
“We are actually not talking about a Stephen King fiction here, we’re not digging up bones,” she said.
“Ms Sudmalis said clearly that any workplace relations legislation is on the table after the election,” Mr Shorten said.
“What is particularly concerning is that she was being asked about the future of penalty rates under an Abbott Liberal government.”
“These comments should be a concern for every worker in Gilmore and every worker right across Australia.”
Ms Aldrick said she was shocked by Mrs Sudmalis’s angry response.
“She’s shown her true colours in the angry way she responded to the question,” she said.
“I am concerned and our union and other unions are concerned that the Liberal Party will not reveal their industrial relations policy prior to the election.
“I am so shocked by the response. I think it was a perfectly reasonable question and it just got a completely over-the-top response.”
In a statement released yesterday Mrs Sudmalis said: “At last night’s [it was, in fact, Wednesday morning] candidates forum I incorrectly answered a question relating to workplace policy.
“The Coalition released our policy to improve the Fair Work laws in May this year: this is the only policy that would be implemented if a Coalition government was elected.”
Labor candidate Neil Reilly said he was surprised and shocked by Mrs Sudmalis’s comments.
“Not only in terms of the future of Work Choices, which I think may come back, but her angry and defamatory response to a lady who has no doubt delivered many babies in Nowra, a nurse and a hard working person.
“She lost her temper and revealed what we all know.
“We’ve said this all along and just a slip of the tongue – many’s a slip twixt cup and lip – has allowed this to reveal their real plans.”
Secretary of the South Coast Labour Council Arthur Rorris said Mrs Sudmalis’s statement sounded a clear warning on industrial relations.
“I, and I think every worker in the Shoalhaven and beyond, should take good notice of this statement from the Liberal Party’s candidate for this seat.
“She says that the agenda is very clear. It may be very clear to everyone in the Liberal Party but until now they have kept everyone else in the dark.
“Now we know that penalty rates, that conditions, that every aspect of your working life, every right you currently enjoy at work is up for grabs after the election.
“This is no scare campaign – it’s coming from the Liberal Party itself,” he said.