Transcript by The Hon Julie Collins MP

Pay rises for community service workers, combatting violence against women

Program: 936 ABC Hobart - Drive


LOUISE SAUNDERS: A number of issues to canvass this afternoon with Julie Collins, who is the Minister for Community Services and also of course a member – or, the member for Franklin in the federal Parliament.

Julie Collins, good afternoon to you.

JULIE COLLINS: Hi Louise, how are you?

LOUISE SAUNDERS: I’m well, look, I’ll start with something we were unable to talk to you about yesterday, and that’s the decision made at ABC management level to reduce the number of staff here by closing the TV production unit. I know that there are motions being moved in state and federal Parliament condemning the decision, what’s your reaction?

JULIE COLLINS: I’m of course very disappointed, and I know many Tasmanians will be. We’re really concerned obviously about the loss of television production in Tasmania and obviously feel for those people who have lost their jobs or are likely to lose their jobs, but also the skill set and the important skills that may be lost to Tasmania if those staff are required to go interstate for their future.

Because of course, even though Mr Scott has said that he’ll set up a production fund of $1.5 million, we may actually lose those skills to Tasmania and be unable to continue to produce Tasmanian content, which I think is so important, and it should be part of you know what we all expect from our ABC, our national broadcaster.

LOUISE SAUNDERS: Do you think there is a chance to apply enough pressure that Mark Scott may reconsider this? It seems to certainly – well it is crossing party lines this one.

JULIE COLLINS: Of course, yes, the bipartisan support for a motion in the Senate – as you rightly pointed out in your introduction – and of course Minister Conroy has actually asked the ABC to reconsider the decision. We can’t interfere in the ABC’s decision, but we can ask them to reconsider it – and they are aware of the concerns of many Tasmanians, including a federal representative.

LOUISE SAUNDERS: Minister, a couple of other things of the various hats that you wear and as Minister for Community Services, today a step further towards the pay rises for equity rates for people working in the community sector. Can you tell me what the mood there today has been?

JULIE COLLINS: We’ve started to make offers to organisations that have direct contracts with the commonwealth, so any organisation that has work within the scope of the Fair Work Australia decision that work within the community and social services sector will start to receive offers from the commonwealth.

Eight different agencies could be making offers to organisations as we speak, and those offers are going out. So organisations should expect to receive an offer from the commonwealth in coming days, and they of course can then make a decision about whether or not they accept the offer of funding, and we can try and get money to them before Christmas.

LOUISE SAUNDERS: Is progress being made on discussions with the states, and I guess particularly with our interest with Tasmania in their commitment to their side of this when it comes to finance?

JULIE COLLINS: Well certainly the Tasmanian government has made a commitment in regards to at least, I think, the first three year of funding. They’ve done a survey of the sector to find out what the needs of the sector are. What we’ve said as the commonwealth government is we will fund our share of the implementation of this decision, and of course we’re doing that with our own contracts with organisations that we have as the commonwealth government, but also with the states in terms of the national partnership agreements that we have with the states and those workers that are in scope in those decisions.

So we’ve made an offer to the states. We’ve asked the states for their equations and their funding models, so that we can have a bit more information; and we’re busy negotiating with the states and we want to get through that as quickly as possible to try and get money to people before Christmas.

LOUISE SAUNDERS: There’s one other thing I want to touch on briefly, Minister, is we’re coming up to – to White Ribbon Day of course and the recognition of violence – domestic violence particularly against women. You launched a toolkit yesterday – this is a – I get about a work aspect of it. How does this work?

JULIE COLLINS: Well I guess we’re trying to send the message that domestic violence affects everybody, and it is a workplace issue. This is a practical toolkit that provides a guide for employees and employers on how to seek assistance, gives them some practical guidance about the types of questions they might have, about who they should talk to – do they need to say that there’s an issue and the – and also referrals to those support services that provide the support, including our 1800-RESPECT number, which is funded by the commonwealth government through our National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and Their Children.

We’re also progressing issues of domestic and family violence through our national plan, and we’ve actually got a meeting of all my counterpart state ministers and the commonwealth in Hobart on Friday to try and do that.

LOUISE SAUNDERS: I’ve also heard, too, that many women who are victims of domestic violence can be disadvantaged in their workplace, because they may not be performing to capacity because of issues at home, and that’s, I guess, never fully addressed. Is that something you hope can I guess be brought out or drawn out or addressed?

JULIE COLLINS: Well of course people that are experiencing it, may find it hard to concentrate at work. They may have a lot of issues that they’re trying to deal with. They may need to take time off. They may be late for work for a range of reasons. They may also be harassed in the workplace, so of course it does impact on their ability to do their job at that particular point of time.

But of course we know that the way out of the situation of domestic violence – it may in fact be really important for them to hold onto that job. So staying at work could be a critical way of finding a safe pathway to exiting a violent relationship. So we need to do what we can to provide them a safe place to work, but also a job and feeling in a job to provide them with financial security, so it is really important.

LOUISE SAUNDERS: Good to talk to you, Minister, thanks for canvassing a number of issues in a short time there. Thanks for joining us.

JULIE COLLINS: Thank you Louise.

LOUISE SAUNDERS: Thank you. That’s Julie Collins, member for Franklin, also Minister for Community Services, Minister for the Status of Women and – I think that covers it.