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Monday, 16 February 2004
Page: 24770

Dr EMERSON (2:54 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Isn't it true that in December 2002 cabinet noted:

Many employees do not have access to flexible, family-friendly working arrangements because benefits are not universal under legislative provisions, awards and agreements.

Didn't cabinet also agree to develop proposals that:

strengthen the safety net of unpaid parental leave provisions and improve access to part-time work for parents returning from unpaid parental leave.

Given that acting on the `good idea' of superannuation took only 48 hours, why doesn't the government immediately act and adopt Labor's plan to give parents returning to work a right to request part-time work?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —One reason why the government will not adopt that is that we think it would actually make it harder for many people in that situation to be employed in the first place. If one imposes that kind of obligation upon small businesses that have only two or three employees, one will simply impose a burden that they cannot afford.

The SPEAKER —The member for Jagajaga is a persistent interjector. She will exercise more restraint.

Mr HOWARD —That kind of requirement is okay if you work for the Commonwealth Public Service, the ABC or Westpac, but, if you are the local small business man or woman who has three employees, the idea of mandating an entitlement to demand part-time work for each of those shows an even more abysmal understanding of how small business operates—

The SPEAKER —The member for Rankin!

Mr HOWARD —than I imagine is possessed by the Australian Labor Party.

The SPEAKER —I warn the member for Rankin, who chooses to defy the chair.

Mr HOWARD —The Australian Labor Party have always been anti small business. That is why they voted against the unfair dismissal laws. I am delighted that the member for Rankin has entered this debate, because every time he does so we are reminded of just how retrograde were the motions on industrial relations adopted at the Labor Party national conference. Not only will they continue to keep the burden of unfair dismissal laws on small business but they will abolish Australian workplace agreements and they will give a right of entry to bullying union leaders. They will make it a requirement of doing business with any future Labor government that companies disclose the identity of their subcontractors so that the union bovver boys can go along and exercise the appropriate amount of muscle if they are not doing the right thing by their comrades. That is basically what the Labor Party are all about. All I can say is that the more questions asked by the member for Rankin, the happier we on this side of the House are.