Television Interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 23 February 2023

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
TELEVISION INTERVIEW
CHANNEL 7 SUNRISE
FRIDAY, 23 FEBRUARY 2024

SUBJECTS: Working from home; Vaping in schools; Taylor Swift.

NATALIE BARR: Well, working from home could soon become a legal right for millions of Aussie workers. The Fair Work Commission is looking into whether flexible arrangements could form the basis of new workplace laws. But is it a step too far as we recover from the pandemic?

For more, let’s bring in our pollies, Education Minister, Jason Clare, and Deputy Opposition Leader, Sussan Ley. Good morning to both of you.

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: G’day Nat.

BARR: Jason, let’s go to you first. How much influence have the unions had on this push to explore work from home arrangements?

CLARE: This is a review that the Fair Work Commission’s doing. They’re looking at this as well as a whole bunch of other things about how our awards operate, and the pandemic showed us that there’s different ways of working.

Ultimately you just need to apply a bit of common sense here. There’s some jobs like yours, like cops, like teachers, like nurses, like ambos, where you can’t work from home, but there are other jobs where you can. There are some people who are more productive when they work from home, others that aren’t.

I think the key here is just a bit of common sense and a bit of flexibility, because this only works if it works for the boss and if it works for the employee.

BARR: I think big business is saying the unions are running the country, Jason.

CLARE: Think about mums and dads who are getting ready to take their kids to school this morning or take the kids to childcare; think about somebody who might have a disability. For some people working from home, whether it’s a day a week or two days a week, it might make sense; it might mean that they’re more productive. The pandemic taught us that.

Ultimately this is a review, looking at awards, and this is one of the things that they’re looking at here; that’s it. The point I’d make is you’ve just got to apply the common sense test to this: does it work for the company or not; does it work for the worker or not, and they need to get together and work that out.

BARR: Sussan, is Jason right, is this the way the world is heading? A lot of studies say people are more productive from home in many instances; it’s good for parents, people with disabilities, people with health conditions. Do you support that?

SUSSAN LEY: Hi, Nat. I’m joining you from Victoria, and my heart goes out to those affected by the fires that you’ve just been covering. Jason’s right, that there has to be a balance, but he’s also perhaps not acknowledging the role of the unions. The unions are pushing much of this, and I worry that we don’t get that balance right.

There are so many workers who can’t work from home who don’t have that choice, but yes, I agree, flexibility has to be right at the centre of this. The last time we had something that was rushed though, we ended up with criminalising phone calls after 5 pm. So let’s take the time to get this right and look after both the employer and the employee.

BARR: Okay. Moving on. There’s an alarming new warning that vaping is now the number one behavioural issue in schools in South Australia. How on earth did we get here? Students are skipping classes to vape in toilets, others are suffering nicotine withdrawals, leading to disruptive behaviour in the classroom.

Jason, you’re front and centre, you’re the Federal Education Minister. How do you start combatting this issue?

CLARE: And it’s not just South Australia, this is across the whole country. One big part of this is ban the sale of these things from vape stores. I’ve got to tell you, nine out of 10 vape stores are within walking distance of our schools.

These companies that make these things are targeting our kids. You walk into one of these stores and you’ve got vapes that look like highlighters that you can hide in a pencil case; you’ve got flavours that you’d see in an ice‑cream store, and it’s working, because, you know, one in six kids in high school at the moment tell us they’re vaping and the impact is massive.

BARR: Jason, that’s great, but won’t it just send them underground?

CLARE: That’s happening already. What you need to do is ban it at the border, and that’s what we’ve done from 1 January, and then ban the sale of these things in these stores.

If this is supposed to be a drug to get you off cigarettes, then you should need a script from the doctor and buy it from the chemist, not from a vape store or corner store that’s round the corner from a school.

So you’ve got to crack down on this. This is just one part of it. I hope the Opposition support it, because at the moment the Opposition haven’t said whether they’ll support the banning of the sale of these things. So I hope that they see a bit of common sense here and back us.

BARR: Sussan?

LEY: I’m very worried, Nat, about kids in schools who are addicted to these awful things, and the Opposition is very happy to work with the Government on this. Of course we can’t have a situation though where kids are running off and getting illegal vapes, so we have to do this carefully, we have to do this properly, and we have to work closely with everyone involved.

But of course I join parents, teachers and the community. It’s a huge worry, and we just ‑ we need to get on top of it.

BARR: Okay. So are you going to support the Government in this, in the ban?

LEY: We’ll work with the Government.

BARR: Okay.

LEY: We’ll work with the Government, of course we will.

CLARE: That’s good to hear.

BARR: Okay, ’cause this is really serious.  Now, finally, the PM has refused to hand over his Taylor Swift ticket to a mega‑fan insisting he is a “Real Swiftie.”  Jason, should he have handed over his ticket, or does he get to sort of do what he wants to do in his own time?

CLARE: I’m thinking about the 21st of November when Pearl Jam are back in Australia for the first time in 10 years. If everyone in Australia can do me a favour; at 12.30 today get off the Internet as I try and get some pre‑sale tickets to Pearl Jam. If anyone asks me to hand over a Pearl Jam ticket, I don’t know what I’d do.

In a world where there’s so much bad news all the time, this is some great news. And you’re going to have, I think, 300,000 Aussies converge on a stadium over the next four nights to watch Taylor perform. It’s going to be awesome. There’s probably a million people who tried to get in who couldn’t. Let’s celebrate a bit of good news and have a bit of fun, and hopefully get to see Pearl Jam on 21st November.

BARR: Yeah, and she’s been out in your patch twice in two days, at the zoo; loved it so much. Sussan, what do you think about Albo being urged to hand over his ticket?

LEY: Nat, what the Prime Minister does on his nights off is up to him, of course, and if he wants to see Taylor Swift, that’s cool, but listening to the emotion from so many parents and so many children, and hundreds of thousands of Australians who couldn’t get tickets, I just want to say to the PM, come on PM, hand over your Taylor Swift ticket to a real Swiftie; you could change a life, you will change a life, and it will be a really good look for you.

BARR: How do you know he’s not, Sussan?

LEY: Ah, well, I know that those kids and those parents who are so emotional and so disappointed, let’s think of them for a moment, and let’s think of the PM being able to change someone’s life by just handing over that ticket.

BARR: Do you know that he’s not in the shower singing Taylor songs; do any of us know?

LEY: I think there are some real Swifties, and I mean real, real Swifties out there ‑‑

BARR: Okay.

LEY: ‑‑ who would absolutely be over the moon, and then some, if they could just have this one ticket, PM.

BARR: Okay, thank you both. We’ll see you next week.

CLARE: See you later.

BARR: Have a great weekend whatever you are doing.

ENDS