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Thursday, 19 October 2006
Page: 74

Mr CAUSLEY (2:26 PM) —My question is directed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services. Would the Deputy Prime Minister inform the House how the government’s workplace reforms are benefiting regional Australia? How is more choice helping to create jobs, particularly on the North Coast of New South Wales?

Mr VAILE (Minister for Transport and Regional Services) —I thank the member for Page for his question. In acknowledging the member for Page, I acknowledge that it is his birthday today and I am sure the House congratulates the member for Page. I also note that the member for Page has indicated today that he is going to retire. We should recognise the great contribution he has made to government, both in his time in this House and as Deputy Speaker and in the state parliament of New South Wales, where he made a significant contribution, particularly during his time as minister.

The member for Page has always been a great supporter of small businesses, the engine room and the backbone of regional Australia. The government’s workplace reform packages, in a number of ways, have significantly strengthened the position of small business in our regional economies. First of all, and particularly in electorates like that of the member for Page, where both employees and employers are looking for flexible arrangements in the workplace to suit their lifestyle, that has delivered great improvements in productivity to small business people. But most importantly in the package was the abolition of the unfair dismissal aspects of the law so that no longer do small business have to confront the unfair dismissal laws that have dogged small business for the last 10 years or more. We have campaigned and campaigned on getting rid of those unfair dismissal laws, and at last we have done so.

Mr Fitzgibbon —The laws of the last 10 years were your laws.

Mr VAILE —The member for Hunter agrees with the government in getting rid of those unfair dismissal laws, so they have now gone.

Mr Fitzgibbon interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Hunter is warned!

Mr VAILE —Here is an interesting statistic: between March and September this year, the Australian economy generated 205,000 new jobs, many of which were in small businesses in regional Australia such as in the electorate of Page. By contrast, in the same period, what happened in the labour market in 1992 when the Leader of the Opposition was the minister for employment? For the same period in 1992, the economy actually lost 15,000 jobs. So, this year, we gained 205,000 jobs but, then, they lost 15,000 jobs. We all know, as the Treasurer just pointed out—and it has been admitted by the Leader of the Opposition—that in July 2000 on 6PR radio in Perth, the Leader of the Opposition said:

We have never pretended to be a small business party.

The Labor Party continue to prove that again today. An important element of the reforms to the Trade Practices Act empowers small business to collectively bargain. It is something we have pursued for the past 12 months and that has been passed by the House and by the Senate. This is another legislative change that is going to strengthen the position of small business in our economy to help them create more jobs in the economy.