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- Start of Business
- MINISTERIAL ARRANGEMENTS
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
East Timor: Foreign Policy
(Beazley, Kim, MP, Howard, John, MP)
Financial Regulation: Government Policies
(Washer, Mal, MP, Howard, John, MP)
East Timor: Foreign Policy
(Martin, Stephen, MP, Howard, John, MP)
Rural and Regional Australia: Meat Industry
(Schultz, Alby, MP, Anderson, John, MP)
Howard Government: Foreign Policy
(Beazley, Kim, MP, Howard, John, MP)
Dairy Industry: Deregulation
(McArthur, Stewart, MP, Truss, Warren, MP)
Budget 1999-2000: East Timor
(Crean, Simon, MP, Howard, John, MP)
Business Tax Reform: Mining Industry
(Haase, Barry, MP, Vaile, Mark, MP)
Goods and Services Tax: Air Travel
(Kernot, Cheryl, MP, Fahey, John, MP)
Business Tax Reform: Family Farms
(Nehl, Garry, MP, Truss, Warren, MP)
Goods and Services Tax: Car Industry
(Cox, David, MP, Fahey, John, MP)
Rural and Regional Australia: Employment and Unemployment
(Cameron, Ross, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
Telstra: Rural and Regional Service Levels
(Smith, Stephen, MP, McGauran, Peter, MP)
Job Network: Evaluation
(Gambaro, Teresa, MP, Abbott, Tony MP)
Medicare: MRI Rebates
(Macklin, Jenny, MP, Wooldridge, Dr Michael, MP)
Industrial Relations: Public Service Reform
(Barresi, Phil, MP, Kemp, Dr David, MP)
Health: MRI Contracts
(Macklin, Jenny, MP, Wooldridge, Dr Michael, MP)
Rural and Regional Australia: Services
(Lawler, Tony, MP, Anderson, John, MP)
Medicare: MRI Rebates
(Macklin, Jenny, MP, Wooldridge, Dr Michael, MP)
Fringe Benefits Tax: Australian Defence Force Personnel
(Lindsay, Peter, MP, Scott, Bruce, MP)
- East Timor: Foreign Policy
- ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
- DISTINGUISHED VISITORS
- PERSONAL EXPLANATIONS
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- EAST TIMOR
- ELECTORAL AND REFERENDUM AMENDMENT BILL (No. 2) 1998
- NATIONAL HEALTH AMENDMENT (LIFETIME HEALTH COVER) BILL 1999
- WORKPLACE RELATIONS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (MORE JOBS, BETTER PAY) BILL 1999
National Rugby League
Moore Park: McDonald's Proposal
- National Rugby League
- Workers' Entitlements: Parrish Meat Supplies
- Rural and Regional Australia: Transport
- Canning Electorate: Community Services
- Petroleum Industry: Reform
- Member for Dawson
- National Rugby League
QUESTIONS ON NOTICE
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry: Grants to the National Farmers Federation
(Ferguson, Martin, MP, Truss, Warren, MP)
Department of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business: Payments to Organisations
(Bevis, Arch, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
Coastal Surveillance Task Force
(Kerr, Duncan, MP, Howard, John, MP)
Electronic Commerce: Collection of Taxes
(Latham, Mark, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
Australian Consulate-General in New York: Purchase
(Crosio, Janice, MP, Downer, Alexander, MP)
Goods and Services Tax: Lifeline Youth Services
(Thomson, Kelvin, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
Australian Taxation Office: Western Australia
(McFarlane, Jann, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
- Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry: Grants to the National Farmers Federation
Tuesday, 28 September 1999
Mr BROUGH (8:56 PM) —I would like start my opening address with a quote:
We are not going back to the days of industrial warfare, strikes without ballots, mass and flying pickets and secondary action . . . We will keep the flexibility of the current labour market—it may make some shiver, but, in the end, it is warmer in the real world.
These are very encouraging words, and words that were spoken not by a conservative or a Liberal member but by the UK Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair, addressing the trade unions congress on 9 September 1997. It is indeed a shame that many of those opposite have not embraced those words of wisdom uttered by Prime Minister Blair in recognising that the world has moved on from the class warfare that is still being fought by those in the trenches opposite.
Today Australia has to compete in a world environment, a world economy, and to do so would be foolhardy in the extreme if we were to leave our industrial relations policies in the manner they have been for so many years. Have the industrial changes that have been brought down by Minister Reith in the Howard government worked thus far? There are three clear pointers and indisputable facts: one, unemployment is at a 10-year low; two, there are more people employed in Australia today than any other time in our history; three, productivity is at an all-time high. We are growing faster as a nation at over two per cent productivity growth compared with just over one per cent not so long ago.
Finally, perhaps the most telling fact is that those workers in Australia today have real wage increases, something they did not achieve under eight accords and the Labor Party. Eight accords with the unions and the opposition, then in government, did not achieve any real wage growth for the workers of Australia. But that has occurred under the Howard government and under the Reith legislation. This is one of the clear pointers as to why Australia has had such a low number of industrial disputes. As the previous coalition speaker, the member for Mitchell, said, it is the lowest since 1913.
These things have not happened by accident; they have happened because there has been good policy. Mr Bill Kelty said that the third world war would be declared with the industrial relations policies that this government was bringing into the parliament. But what has been delivered is increased productivity for Australian companies that is making Australia more productive and enhancing our opportunities for greater exports. This ensured that those many people who had felt deserted by the Labor Party, who had felt there was no chance of a job, suddenly were brought back in from the cold almost disbelieving that there were still real jobs to be had—jobs which could give them the satisfaction of knowing that they were contributing to their community, that they were no longer required to rely on welfare payments and that they could provide for their families. They are the facts on what the coalition's policy has thus far delivered. But for us to stop at this point and to say, `That's good enough,' would be to desert the many people that still remain unemployed.
The majority of the opposition members that have spoken on the Workplace Relations Legislation Amendment (More Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 1999 have got up one after another and simply trotted out the line of their particular union. The member for Batman referred to the ACTU's position. Of course, his former position is well known. The member for Lalor referred to the clothing union and the member for Bendigo referred to the meat industry. We heard one after another and we can identify which union props up each individual member in this House, come election time.
This bill goes to the core values of individuals and their rights to make decisions for themselves. How does the ALP deal with that? What is the ALP's stance in relation to individual rights? A look into the rules and regulations of their party makes it very clear where they stand on individual rights. If anybody out there listening tonight is contemplating joining the ALP, to join you must belong to a union if there is a union you are eligible to join in your workplace. You do not have a choice. You must do so. Where are the workers' rights? Where are the rights of individuals in that? To go one step further, I have dragged a form for membership inquiry for the Victorian branch of the Labor Party off Steve Bracks's home page on the Internet. In addressing this, the shadow spokesman for the Attorney-General might like to explain to me the rights of the members of the unions and the members of the Labor Party. He asks that, when you fill out this membership inquiry, you make the following pledge and sign your name to it:
I hereby pledge myself to the Australian Labor Party to faithfully uphold to the best of my ability its Constitution and platforms and to work and vote for the selected Labor candidates. I am not a member of any other organisation which pledges its members to support candidates for public office. I will forfeit my membership if I nominate against an endorsed Labor candidate.
No problems so far. Then the last telling lines are:
If I employ labour I will employ union members.
You are pledging that you will discriminate towards union members and union members alone. The member for Jagajaga just spoke about women's rights. Do women's rights just get thrown out the window if they are not a member of the union? Too bad about someone having better qualifications—being the right person for the job. If they do not have union membership, according to the Victorian Labor Party they do not deserve to be given the chance.
That is simply not good enough. This legislation tries to redress the balance of some of this. Unfortunately we are not in a position today to be able to take the Victorian Labor Party into the courts where they deserve to be, to have them stand up and identify where it is in their constitution that that rule that they state here in their pledge is somehow overturned. The fact is that they do not believe everyone is equal. You are more equal if you are a member of a union.
How relevant are they in the workplace today? How relevant are unions and therefore the Labor Party? In August 1998 union membership declined by a further 2.2 per cent, down to 28.1 per cent of the work force. A paltry 21.4 per cent of private sector employees were members of the unions. Almost one in five—four out of every five workers—have abandoned the unions because the unions are no longer working for the working-class man. They are working for the ALP. They are working for the people in this place, the people that in eight accords could not find the time, the heart or the internal fortitude to start to support those workers who had lost their entitlements because people had gone broke. There were billions of dollars of lost entitlements—and what did the ALP do? They said in the eighth accord that, if it were necessary, they would address it in the future. Therefore the 200,000-odd workers and the billions of dollars that had been lost did not warrant anyone doing anything about it. This government is addressing it. This government is addressing it now, not in our eighth accord or in our fifth bill but now, in our second term of government, now that we have many of these issues already put to bed.
Many of those opposite have also run away from the need for workplace agreements and enterprise bargaining. The member who spoke last, the member for Jagajaga, complained that workplace agreements were not the way ahead. Where was she when the former Prime Minister Mr Keating was trumpeting it as government policy—as ALP policy? I will quote from the Australian Trades and Labour Council's own publication from 1997, a fairly recent publication, Reforming Australia's unions. It says:
It matters little whether Reith's legislation provides `fast' or `slow' labour market deregulation. For most workers, it will be the same kind of change they have had to deal with over the past decade.
This has been Labor policy for 10 years, although they have fought with the unions all the way to bring it in. Now that it has been embraced by the public and we are seeing increased productivity, improvements in people's living standards and improvements in real wages, they all run from it. They are running from their own doctrine. The trouble is: where will they run to next?
I would like to quote now from a letter from a union member. I am going to read it out in full. It is not glowing about the minister, but this is not an edited version. This is word for word. It is from a lady by the name of Sascha Attwood, from Fitzroy, who wrote a letter to the Age newspaper, which was published on 14 August 1999. It is headed `Still so blokey, still so unrepresentative'. The member for Jagajaga should listen closely to what this woman has to say as she reflects on how unions are not representing women, since that was the argument that the member built upon in her address. She says:
I attended the rally on Thursday organised by the Trades Hall in protest against Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith's proposed industrial relations laws.
I attended because I believe that hard-won conditions and rights for workers are under threat. And I marched in order to once again experience the thrill and solidarity of marching down the main street of Melbourne with 100,000 fellow workers.
I left the rally dispirited and angry. The ACTU president, Jennie George, was two minutes into her address and a foolish young man held up a freshly scribbled placard with `Show us your tits' written on it, to the amusement and roar from his fellow workmates.
The actions of one person carried an ironic and bitter twist to the rally. While I could dismiss his actions as immaturity or misdirected humor, they also spelt out other messages to me, a woman worker.
The union movement has failed to embrace women as active and participating union members. I still ask why union rallies are so dominated by men and why do so few women attend?
The established unions may be able to attract the biggest slice of media attention and public sympa thy, but when you look at Mr Reith's agenda you will see that the workers under-represented, marginalised and discriminated against will suffer in silence. For these workers, the industrial fall-out will not be fought in the public eye but, I sadly predict, fought each day, worker-by-worker.
I long for the day when a union rally attracts a more equitable turnout of both male and female workers, when ethnic workers, lesbian and gay workers, disabled workers and young workers feel represented and included.
I will support the Trades Hall and ACTU fight against Mr Reith's legislation and support forthcoming actions, but I urge both marginalised workers and the union movement to work together to make the movement more relevant, responsive and representative.
You need no other understanding than to hear the words of Sascha Attwood to understand why union membership is down to 21.4 per cent. The unions do not represent the women; they do not represent the average worker. They represent the people in this place, and that is all. I quote again:
I left the rally dispirited and angry.
I had the misfortune to be at a union rally recently as well. I was representing Minister Reith down in Melbourne at an area consultative committee initiative which was designed to do one thing: to get more jobs for the people of Melbourne by export enhancement, replacing imported products with Australian made products. We had about 60 union members arrive. They broke the front gate, and came into a place which had one purpose in mind, and that was to create more jobs for Australians.
Much to my horror, I found out that these people were not there out of choice. They did not say, `We want to stand up against Peter Reith and the coalition.' They were bussed there after union members had rung employers and demanded that they send people to the rally and pay them—against their wishes. These union members did not know what they were doing there. They did not know what bill it was that they were supposed to be opposing. They were forced to be there. When some of these employers rang the minister's office to complain and were advised that they were in fact breaking the law—it is against the law to pay people when they are striking illegally, and against their will, I might add— the employers said, `I have no choice. The union pressure on me will ensure that if I do not pay these people then I will be black-banned.'
You wonder why it is necessary to have the bill before the House. It is because this government, the coalition government, believes that you must have equal rights, that it does not matter whether you are in a union or not in a union: you should both have equal representation at the workplace. It should not matter whether you are a member of the Victorian Labor Party. If you are a member of the Victorian Labor Party, as I said earlier, you are forced by your pledge to the Labor Party to employ union workers, not non-union workers. Where are the rights of the individual in that? You take away the rights of the individual member who was an employer and you take away the rights of the individual who is there thinking that they have a real opportunity at a job when the reality is: `No membership, no work', just like `No union ticket, no work'.
These are the reasons the Labor Party will never embrace the words of Tony Blair. The Australian Labor Party will never be able to see that in fact the dim dark ages have gone, that the necessity for some sort of tribal warfare, employer against employee, should be a thing of the past. The fact is that Australia is part of a global economy, whether we like it or not. We compete each and every day with workers in Taiwan, the US, the UK, Europe and South Africa. We have to deal with them by having a greater level of productivity. We can only do that by ensuring that the workplace is a cohesive workplace which sees both employers and employees working together.
The member for Jagajaga made two telling points. She referred to the right of entry of union officials and said that they should be able to come in any time. The fact is that unions in the past have come onto workplaces where there are zero members of the union and demanded to look at the books of the employer, take up his time—when these unions are not even welcome in that business; they have no reason to be in that business. Why? Because they are there. They are no different from a hawker looking for business. They are touting for the hard-earned cash out of the workers' pockets, and each and every day more workers desert them. Two point two per cent left at last call, down to 21.4 per cent.
When are those opposite going to wake up to themselves that workers demand simple things. They demand the right to have a secret ballot when they want to go on strike. You see, it is not in fact the union bosses who lose the wage, because they do not; it is the worker. It is the worker that decides when a union boss says, `You're going out.' You have lost a day's pay—end of story. The point is this: let us empower the worker to be able to make the choice for himself. The member for Jagajaga stood in this place and said that when the unions come in they have got to be assembled and the boss is going to be able to see them. Wow! Let us at least look at the other side of this flip coin. What occurs now is that if someone wants to come in and deal with these people the employer has no say. If these workers want to go on strike, it is a show of hands. What happens to people's individual rights if they want to work against, they do not believe it is their best interests? Is that intimidation in the work force? I will tell you right now you cannot dispute it, can you—
Mr Griffin —They take the benefits.
Mr BROUGH —The member opposite, who is sitting at the dispatch box, says, `They'll take the benefits.' The fact is that they also take the discrimination and the incrimination of their fellow workers if they stand up for what they believe in. This party simply wants to do one thing, and that is, give every worker the right to choose whether they want to be a member of a union, the right to choose secret ballots and the right to be able to negotiate with their employer so that they have job security and improved living standards.
I conclude by asking those opposite to challenge whether or not the quotes that I have made in this House are incorrect. Is it incorrect that the Victorian Labor Party has in its membership inquiry form the pledge that if you employ labour you will employ union members? Is that a requirement—yes or no? Is it a fact that there are more people employed in Australia today than ever before? Is it a fact that productivity is higher today than it has ever been? Is it a fact that living standards and real wages have increased under a coalition government and that, in fact, they went backwards under eight consecutive agreements between the unions and the Labor Party? This legislation is another important step in ensuring that workers have not only good, strong rights but also a future in Australia's burgeoning economy and that they can all play a role in being part of Australia's future.