Sunrise Interview with Minister Plibersek 12/02/24

12 February 2024






NATALIE BARR: Well, Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton, will this week question Barnaby Joyce over a video that surfaced of the former Deputy PM. Mr Joyce was filmed lying on a street in Canberra shouting on the telephone after a long parliamentary sitting day. For more, we're joined by Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, and Nationals MP, Barnaby Joyce. Good morning to both of you. Barnaby, let's start with you.






BARR: How are you?


JOYCE: Look, I'm obviously, you know, I made a big mistake, there's no excuse for it, there's a reason, and, you know, it was a very eventful walk home, wasn't it? So anyway, that's, you know, I should have followed the ‑ I'm on a prescription drug, and they say certain things may happen to you if you drink, and they were absolutely 100 per cent right, they did.


BARR: So you mixed alcohol with prescription medication, did you, and this is what happened? 


JOYCE: That's exactly what I said, yep.


BARR: So we've got quotes by David Littleproud, the Nationals leader saying that you're going to get the support that you need. Do you need support over this?


JOYCE: Well, you know, I think it's ‑ well, look, I'm not looking for sympathy, and I'm not looking for an excuse, I'll just stand by that. What I said is what I said. I came back, I sat on a planter box, I fell off, and I was video‑taped. There you go. What else can you say?


BARR: If this sort of thing happened, I guess, to an executive in a big company and they were on the ground like that, and they were affected by alcohol, they may be reprimanded. Do you think you should be? There's talk about that this morning.


JOYCE: Well, look, I ‑ Nat, that's not my decision really, is it, you know, I'm not going to sort of enter into a long dialogue about, you know, what other people may want to do.


BARR: Are they circling while you were down, do you think?


JOYCE: Oh, I don't ‑ Nat, how would I know? I'm here.


BARR: Are you kind of angry that you were lying on the ground, and someone filmed you and no one helped you?


JOYCE: Well, that's a question for them, you know. You know, for me, the good Samaritan was the Indian taxi driver who pulled over as I was walking home and said, "Do you need a lift, mate?" Which I obviously did.


BARR: Tanya, what's your reaction to this?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Oh, look, I think there's been plenty of commentary. I'm not going to add to it. It's a matter for Barnaby and his family and his party to sort through.


BARR: Okay, moving on to the news of the day, I guess. Bosses are warning they'll be forced to end flexible working arrangements once the Government's right to disconnect laws come into effect. Bosses say allowing staff to leave early, to pick up their kids or attend appointments during work hours will no longer be an option. It comes as Opposition Leader Peter Dutton says he's going to scrap the laws if elected. Tanya, should workers be concerned that they'll lose their flexible working arrangements under these new laws?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Absolutely not. But what they can know for certain is that Liberals want you to earn less, and Labor wants hard‑working Australians to get a pay rise and a tax cut; a pay rise and keep more of what they're earning.


These laws are about making sure that you're not working 24 hours a day seven days a week, expected to be on call, unless you are paid to be on call. Of course there will be exceptions to that, of course you have to apply common sense. But what we're seeing more and more is a 9 to 5 job where you're expected to be answering emails at 11 o'clock at night or 5 o'clock in the morning, and that's not fair. If you're supposed to be answering emails at 11 o'clock at night and 5 o'clock in the morning, you should be paid those extra dollars.


BARR: Barnaby, do you support Peter Dutton repealing these laws?


JOYCE: Yes, I do. I mean, and we answer emails, and no doubt you do, Nat, early in the morning and after work. This is ‑ if you make work so restrictive, you're just going to create less jobs; that's what happens. People cut and dice wages and salaries to take into account already what people have to do, and especially in areas such as here ‑‑


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: But Barnaby, we get paid extra to be available like that.


JOYCE: I know, I know. And I think most people, Tanya and most jobs ‑ sure. Tanya, in most jobs people ‑ it is part of the package.  I'll tell you what, there's an awfully big demand for people to work.




JOYCE: If you are looking for a job, you've got the cards, and people do carve out deals. I know that's how we employ people, and that's how they carve it out with us.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Yeah, and that's the point, exactly. And if you are working those long hours, if you're on call, if you're working weekends, your pay should reflect that. That's all that we're saying, that's all that these laws are proposing.


BARR: Yeah, Barnaby, isn't this trying to protect people on lower wages who they don't want to be taken advantage ‑ who people don't want to be taken advantage of?


JOYCE: Well, we agree that no one wants to be taken advantage of. So many jobs, where they start is a path and progression to further jobs, to career advancement. But I don't believe that people are being unnecessarily hounded, and if they are unnecessarily hounded, there are mechanisms already to deal with that. But if you have an over‑prescriptive labour market, all you do is you force people to contractors; that's where things go, because you think, "This is too over the top, I'd rather pay more money for a contractor" and then a contractor comes.


BARR: Yeah. Tanya, do we need so many rules?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, what's the mechanism, Barnaby?


BARR: That's the other ‑ that's the flip side. Do we need so many rules?


JOYCE: Sorry, that's for me?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Look, this is something that would come into play if a boss is being unreasonable and constantly making these demands. But Barnaby's saying there's already things in place to deal with that. I'm interested to know what he thinks would deal with being asked to work, you know, all hours of the day when they're being paid 9 to 5.


BARR: Okay, final word, Barnaby.


JOYCE: Well, obviously, you can't harass someone. If you're insistent and continually calling people, there are a whole range of laws that will deal with you, harassment's the first one.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Like what? Like what?


JOYCE: Harassment ‑ you can't just belligerently continue to call people against their wishes, it's just ‑ you just can't do that.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: You're just making this up, Barnaby.


JOYCE: Well, okay, if you're saying there's not harassment laws, that's fine.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: You're just making it up now. The point is that there are very few, I don't doubt, employers who are making unreasonable demands for people to be available all the hours of the day when they're being paid 9 to 5, and that's not fair, and we're dealing with it because we want to make sure that Australians who are working hard get paid for that hard work, and by the way, also get a tax cut.


BARR: Okay. Well, look, that's the difference between the two parties, very stark difference ‑‑




BARR: because you've got one side saying one thing and one side saying the other. So I guess the people will decide. Thank you very much, both of you, today. See you next week. Here's Shirvo.

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Thank you. Thanks, Nat.