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Tuesday, 13 February 2007
Page: 11


Mr JOHNSON (2:47 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Would the minister inform the Ryan electorate and the parliament how a flexible workplace relations system contributes to jobs growth and economic prosperity? Is the minister aware of any proposals which could destroy our economic prosperity?


Mr HOCKEY (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I thank the member for Ryan, whose electorate in the heart of Brisbane in that great state of Queensland now has an unemployment rate of 1.9 per cent. Overwhelmingly, that has to be linked to the small businesses that are in the electorate of Ryan. It is undoubtedly part of the equation about doing the hard yards and making the tough decisions that help to build a strong economy. The Australian, in their editorial today, pointed to the benefits of workplace change. They said:

The benefits of labour market reform are plain to see in the snapshot of the Australian economy provided yesterday by the Reserve Bank ...

At the heart of those workplace reforms is the abolition of the Labor Party’s job-destroying unfair dismissal laws. Small business today have confirmed that they now have an incentive to create jobs. The New South Wales Business Council said:

We always said that the removal of unfair dismissal would free up small businesses to employ more people.

The President of the Real Estate Institute said:

I think with the previous legislation that was thrust upon us it made it very, very difficult for small businesses to survive under that regime.

The Chief Executive of Family Business Australia said:

The old legislation—

the Labor Party’s legislation—

was onerous. Family businesses were inclined to have to pay what they called ‘go away money’ to get rid of the disruptive or inappropriate employees.

The Labor Party voted against the interests of small business on 44 occasions. They voted against the removal of the Labor Party job-destroying unfair dismissal laws.


Mr Bevis —They were Peter Reith’s.


The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Brisbane!


Mr HOCKEY —At that time the Deputy Leader of the Opposition stood on principle opposing those laws. She said our removal of the unfair dismissal laws was:

… a further assault on the working conditions of the industrially weak.

She went on to say:

It is fundamentally bad public policy, short-sighted and ridiculous …

There she was, taking a principled stand opposing the laws, and so it was a bit surprising for all of us on Sunday when she said that she was going to speak to small business about possible exceptions. The trade union movement, as they do, came out today pointing out that it is a matter of principle for them. The ACTU’s Greg Combet—always good for a quote—declared that the issue remained ‘a statement of principle and belief’. He said, ‘We believe there shouldn’t be any exceptions.’ The AWU’s Bill Ludwig—not a bad guy sometimes and a good judge of character at times—said that you either have those unfair dismissal laws or you do not. And we cannot forget Unions New South Wales’s John Robertson who said that there should not be exceptions.

The Labor Party is trying to walk on both sides of the street. On the one hand the trade union movement is saying that there are no exceptions, that it is a matter of principle and that unfair dismissal laws should apply to every businessman no matter what. That is the policy of the Labor Party, because that is how they have voted on 44 occasions in this place. On the other side of the road we have the Deputy Leader of the Opposition trying to whisper sweet nothings into the ears of small business. Small business is onto you. Small business is smarter than that. Small business knows that getting rid of the unfair dismissal laws has helped to create jobs. The coalition believes in creating jobs and the Labor Party believes in destroying jobs.