Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has questioned calls from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to negotiate over workplace relations.
Mr Turnbull has declared he is prepared to talk with Labor and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) to end a stalemate on re-establishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), which remains stalled in the Senate.
Mr Shorten told reporters in Adelaide while he is happy to talk about corruption, there are other issues the Prime Minister should focus on.
“I want to know what Malcolm Turnbull is going to do to help millions of Australians who are underemployed or have insecure work,” Mr Shorten said.
“Let’s talk about the spread of sham contracting arrangements, the scamming by subcontractors of employment to another company where people are employed on half of the minimum wage and have a look no further than 7-Eleven.”
He said Mr Turnbull was setting Labor a test on industrial relations.
“Well, I thought today I would set an industrial relations test for Mr Turnbull,” he said.
“How about reducing serious injuries and fatalities at work, including real action on industrial diseases including asbestos and mesothelioma.”
Government ministers have put their support behind Mr Turnbull’s calls for Labor to negotiate over the ABCC.
“Whatever the area is, the riding instructions for Ministers are to produce results and that involves, very often in a legislative system, compromises,” Social Services Minister Christian Porter said.
Mr Turnbull also threatened to take the issue to the next federal election if changes were not made.
“I think the only way they will not be a frontline issue is if the Labor party comes to its senses and agrees to changes,” Mr Turnbull told The Australian newspaper.
Labor frontbencher Matt Thistlethwaite has told Sky the previous Labor government had made significant changes to the governance of unions.
“We’ll certainly talk to the Government about any constructive, positive reforms,” Mr Thistlethwaite said.
“But you need to realise that when we were in government, Labor did reform the management and the reporting and the transparency of trade unions.”
Birthday pledges focus on public transport, tax, union corruption
Mr Turnbull, who turns 61 today, has staged a birthday media blitz, pledging action on public transport, tax reform and industrial relations.
He has conducted eight wide-ranging newspaper interviews, five weeks after overthrowing Tony Abbott for the top job.
He has flagged government assistance to help get the $11 billion Melbourne Metro rail project off the ground, as well as new borrowing to fund other infrastructure projects.
“We don’t need the same internal rate of return as Macquarie Bank would, obviously,” Mr Turnbull told Fairfax Media.
“But, if we have a piece of it, then we’re able to invest more, frankly.
“Then we’re much better off being a partner rather than simply being an ATM.”
Nationals Senator Matt Canavan told Sky the idea made sense if they provided value for money.
“The key thing is that the projects themselves must stack up,” Senator Canavan said.
“I have no problem with public transport investments in cities.
“I grew up in this great town of Brisbane — I left the place I must say because I don’t like living in big cities, but lots of people do — and I have no problem with us making sure people can live in cities, as long as the investments stack up.”
Turnbull to attend Paris climate change conference
Mr Turnbull has also raised the prospect of a sovereign wealth fund when the budget returns to surplus and has promised to push ahead with tax and media ownership changes.
On the environment front, the Prime Minister revealed he would be travelling to Paris for climate change talks at the end of the year.
He also talked tough over a decision by the big four banks to lift interest rates independently of the Reserve Bank, and warned that the case had not been made.
Mr Turnbull has also repeated a pledge to run the new Government for a full term, telling the Guardian he was “assuming” the next election would be in September or October 2016.
The Prime Minister will mark his 61st birthday with a private function in Sydney today.