Interview with Lisa Millar, ABC News Breakfast

LISA MILLAR, HOST: The Federal Government is looking to crank Australia's music scene up to eleven with a new body, Music Australia, which hopes to do for local artists and performers what Screen Australia does for film. It comes alongside a plan to improve workplace standards and career longevity within the creative sector. The Minister in charge, Tony Burke, joins us now from Parliament House. Hey, good morning, Minister. I've got to start by giving you the opportunity to, you know, remember Tina, the woman that – the incredible performer that we are marking her passing today.

TONY BURKE MP, MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS, MINISTER FOR THE ARTS: You think about Tina Turner, and you think about high energy and right back to – we'll all have different memories. The first time I would have seen and known of her would have been Acid Queen in the movie Tommy, but whether it was ‘Nut Bush’, ‘River Deep, Mountain High’, whatever it was that people got to, there was always that sense of high energy and an artist who gave it absolutely everything. Anyone who has read Jimmy Barnes’ Working Class Boy, you just see, even for someone like Jimmy, how much those early tours, when he saw Tina Turner, had an impact on the work that he and a whole lot of Australian artists did subsequently. It's not just Tina's collection, it's everyone else she affected in modern music that realises what we've lost today.

MILLAR: Minister, let's talk about Australian music because you've got this legislation going to Parliament to try and ensure that not only the music but the creative scene in Australia generally is looked after. What will it actually do?

BURKE: There's two different parts to what happens in today's legislation with the new Creative Australia. One is about making sure that our workplaces are safe, and with #MeToo, and also with the issues that were raised by artists like Jaguar Jonze about not having safe workplaces in the music industry. We want to have something for all the creative workplaces that is about making sure we've got standards and that workplaces are safe. That can be safe from forms of discrimination, safe from forms of exploitation as well.

The other part of it is Creative Australia will also have a body in it called Music Australia. We used to think with music, “it’ll look after itself, contemporary music”. But people don't buy as many albums anymore. A whole lot of the income comes through streaming. Streaming income is really low. People are relying on tours. What used to look after itself, we now need some government policy and a government body there that's dedicated to looking into the commercial world as well and saying, how can we make sure Australian music is always part of the soundtrack to life in Australia.

MILLAR: Yeah, you'd like to be part of it as well. Let's show viewers a bit of the vision from last night. This is your band because there was a formal function at Parliament House. Left Right Out is what it's called. You're playing with The Wiggles I just want to say you might be just – I don't know, are you aiming too high?

BURKE: I was astonished they were willing to play with us. There was probably a bit more distortion than a Wiggles show would normally have, but we describe ourselves as the greatest pub rock band in the entire Federal Parliament.

MILLAR: Yeah well, good on you. Hey, listen, I just want to get you on a couple of other subjects that have come up today. News that we need to talk about. We've just heard from the Australian Energy Regulator confirming that the baseline electricity prices are going to be higher than originally warned of for next year, adding between 20 and 24 per cent to people's bills. Is your government doing enough to get those bills down?

BURKE: What's important is for any of those prices, they are lower than they would have been if were it not for the Government acting last year. The fact that the Government acted last year has put some constraints on those prices, and it's also guaranteed a whole lot of energy price relief that will go through in each state. All of those issues were issues that were controversial, that Peter Dutton and the others voted against. You can't do everything to control international prices and international impacts, but where you can act to put constraints on prices, the Government is.

MILLAR: I just want to ask you also about the same job, same pay proposals because BHP this week, we haven't been able to talk to you about this before now, have said that it's going to cost up to 5,000 jobs and job opportunities. Will jobs be lost with your proposals?

BURKE: No. What we're talking about is where a company has already decided what a job is worth. They've already decided this is what you should be paid for a job. They've decided productivity, everything, that's what it's worth. Then having agreed with their workforce on that they go off to a labour-hire firm and say, “oh now technically you're a different employer so we can get away with a lower rate of pay”. That's not fair. It's a loophole. It needs to be closed and we’ll be closing it this year.

MILLAR: Why is BHP saying that it is going to cost 5,000 jobs?

BURKE: What BHP have done is they've come up with a costing – they haven't let us know what the presumptions are, but they've come up with a costing and in that costing, they're basing it on legislation that hasn't been written. We’re in consultation working through sensible detail on this, but to come out with a figure like that, put it all around the papers and the news without the legislation having been written, when there's a process that they're part of that's still working through the detail, I don't think we can take those sorts of numbers as gospel.

MILLAR: And finally the AFP is now investigating, there's a criminal investigation into the actions of the former executive, Peter Collins. Should governments actually be outsourcing to groups like PwC? Is the relationship too cosy?

BURKE: One thing that this Government's done is start to bring back into the Australian Public Service a whole lot of the responsibilities that have been previously outsourced. There can be occasions where you need something to be outsourced. There can be occasions where you need something to be completely independent of the public service. But what effectively happened –

MILLAR: Is PWC still allowed to do that? At the moment, they are, aren’t they? You haven’t told them they can’t.

BURKE: What effectively happened, there's still processes to be worked through and we're not going to get in front of those, but effectively, we had an entirely shadow public service that had been fully privatised and Katy Gallagher as Finance Minister has been starting to bring that back in house because the public service should be owned by the Australian people.

MILLAR: All right, Tony Burke. Keep on rocking. Thanks for coming on.

BURKE: Thank you. See you.