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Wednesday, 18 October 2006
Page: 74

Mr HENRY (2:17 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Would the minister update the House on how Australian workplaces are using the choice and flexibility delivered by the government’s workplace reforms? Is the minister aware of any threats to economic benefits delivered by these important reforms?

Mr ANDREWS (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I thank the member for Hasluck for his question. I note that every Australian workplace is different and, therefore, Work Choices is delivering the flexibility for individual businesses and employees to choose the type of agreement which best suits their workplace. This is borne out by the data from the Office of the Employment Advocate about the take-up of agreements over the past six months. Of the new agreements since Work Choices came into operation on 27 March this year, 70 per cent of workers are covered by collective agreements and 30 per cent of workers are covered by individual agreements.

Unfortunately, the Labor Party has been unwilling to acknowledge the real benefits for Australians covered by Work Choices. For months we have had the Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party running around this country maintaining that collective agreements would not exist under Work Choices, despite the real evidence otherwise. What we see after six months is 70 per cent of workers covered by collective agreements and 30 per cent covered by individual agreements.

Even last night the member for Perth was maintaining this denial. He said, ‘Collective agreements signed since the introduction of the government’s industrial relations legislation are despite the laws, not because of them.’ That reminds me: we used to have one rooster who used to crow that real money was not real. We now have the other rooster claiming that real agreements are not real. We had the spectacle over the weekend, when the Labor Party in South Australia refused to allow non-union members of the media to cover—

Mr Ripoll interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Oxley!

Mr ANDREWS —their conference in Adelaide, of the Leader of the Opposition saying that he could not do anything about it. He was too weak to stand up to the union bosses in that instance. Today he came out and said, ‘Oh, we’ll get that changed.’ On the weekend he was too weak to stand up and say, ‘I’m going to have a media conference at the site of the conference.’ He had to go out to the car park. Today he says, ‘We’ll change this policy.’ I note that instead of having the guts to say, ‘I will change the policy,’ he says, ‘I’ll get the national executive of the ALP to do it.’ That is not leadership. It was interesting that the Leader of the Opposition had to run out to a car park to hold this media conference on the weekend. Just before question time I went to the website of the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr Albanese —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order under standing order 104.

The SPEAKER —I have been listening carefully to the minister. I believe he is answering the question.

Mr ANDREWS —There are all sorts of media releases and speeches by the Leader of the Opposition on his website. But do you know what is missing from his website? What is missing is the doorstop that he performed in a car park in Adelaide. It is missing from the website of the Leader of the Opposition. What we have here is the Leader of the Opposition saying to the Australian people, ‘I want to be heard on these issues,’ but then hiding away the transcript of a doorstop on the issue involved. As I said, there are two things that are clear at this stage of the week. The first is—

The SPEAKER —Order! Before calling the member for Grayndler, I would remind members on my left that when a member is speaking he will be heard.

Mr Albanese —Mr Speaker, on a point of order under standing order 75

The SPEAKER —The member for Grayndler would be well aware that I have ruled on that same point of order in the past and made it very clear that standing order 75 does not apply to answers in question time.

Mr ANDREWS —There are two things clear about this: first of all, once again, we have a demonstration of the essential weakness of the Leader of the Opposition, who is not fit to govern this country, and the second and final thing is that we now have a definitive Labor answer to that old riddle: why did the chicken cross the road? To do his doorstop in the car park.