Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten has jumped on comments about industrial relations made by a Liberal Party candidate, saying they proved the Coalition planned to resurrect its unpopular WorkChoices policies after the election.
Ann Sudmalis is the Liberal candidate for the seat of Gilmore on the NSW south coast. She is running to replace retiring Liberal MP Joanna Gash.
Asked at a candidates' forum on Wednesday night about what a Coalition government would do to protect penalty rates for shift workers, Ms Sudmalis said that all of the nation's workplace laws would be up for review after the election.
''Any workplace relations legislation is on the table after the election, not before, so I'm sorry, I can't answer your question,'' Ms Sudmalis said.
''It [the law] is exactly as it is right now, right through to the election, and it will be reviewed after the election and that has been made perfectly clear to everybody.''
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and his workplace relations spokesman Eric Abetz released the Coalition's industrial policies in May.
Fearful of Labor campaigning hard on a possible return to former prime minister John Howard's WorkChoices policies, both Mr Abbott and Senator Abetz have been at pains to say the Coalition would not make major changes to workplace laws in its first term.
But Mr Shorten said Ms Sudmalis' comments had ''let the cat out of the bag and told Australians the truth about the Liberals' plans for penalty rates after September 7''.
''Far from being dead and buried, the Liberals are raring to go with WorkChoices Mark II,'' he said. ''This is further proof the Liberals cannot be trusted on workplace relations."
A spokesman for Senator Abetz said the Coalition had put out its industrial policy in May. ''So it is on the table,'' he said, before referring all queries on the issue to the Coalition's campaign headquarters.
Ms Sudmalis released a statement on Thursday, in which she said she had ''incorrectly answered a question relating to workplace policy'' at the candidates' forum.
''The Coalition released our Policy to Improve the Fair Work Laws in May this year; this is the only policy that would be implemented if a Coalition government was elected,'' she said.
Ms Sudmalis said the Fair Work Act would be kept and improved, and that ''the pay and conditions of workers will be protected''.