Jennifer Westacott doorstop interview, Sydney

03 June 2020

Event: Doorstop interview, Sydney

Speaker: Jennifer Westacott; chief executive, Business Council of Australia

Topics: Workplace relations


Jennifer Westacott, chief executive Business Council of Australia: Today’s meeting was a very important opportunity to come together to make sure that we get Australians back into jobs, that we create new jobs, that we create secure well-paid work for Australians. It's absolutely vital that we work together and the business community stands ready to work side by side with the union movement, with government, with the broader community. To make sure that we come out of this crisis a stronger, better country with well-paid secure work for Australians and an industrial relations system that allows businesses to grow and people to be well-paid.

Question: How would you rate the first meeting out of ten?

Jennifer: Well I think giving these meetings a rating is never particularly helpful. It was an incredibly positive meeting. We spent a lot of time on process and procedure which is exactly what we should have done. And now it's vital that we allow those processes to occur. And certainly, everybody was on the same page. What are here to do? We are here to get Australians back into work. We're here to create new jobs, we're here to create secure well-paid work and we're all here to find practical ways through some of the problems in our system and to make compromises that are going to be essential so we get that system working properly.

Question: Will employers have to give up certain things if they want to get certain things from the unions?

Jennifer: Absolutely, we all have to come into this process and be willing to make compromises, give things up. Our job is to problem-solve on behalf of Australians. To make sure that we've got a system that allows people to get back to work, creates well-paid secure work for Australians. All of us have to leave the history at the door and make sure that we're working on those practical solutions to solve some of the problems that we all acknowledge, today and previously, dominate our industrial relations system.

Question: The better off overall test is one of the central components of reform. Would you regard that this process as a failure if that it wasn't dealt with in some way?

Jennifer: It's one issue. I think everyone from both sides, union and business, has acknowledged that is not working well. But it's one issue amongst many other issues. And we don't want to get into the process of starting to debate each issue by issue. We want to allow this process to roll out. A process that everyone agreed today that we need to act in good faith, allow the conversations to occur, allow the facts to be put on the table, the case studies to be put on the table and then find those practical ways to actually get things working better.

Question: Is there any particular company CEOs who want to be involved in the working groups or would like included?

Jennifer: Well that will be a decision that we make in consultation with the government and in consultation with the union movement. But clearly, if you go through each of the working groups you can imagine the sort of companies that need to be at those tables, albeit supermarkets in respect of the awards, companies that have a lot of casual labour and of course on greenfield agreements it's absolutely vital that our major miners and our major oil and gas producers were at that table.


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