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Thursday, 10 May 2007
Page: 84

Mrs MIRABELLA (2:52 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Would the minister inform the House how Australia’s workplace relations system has helped to create more than two million jobs since 1996? Are there any risks to this success? Further, are there any alternative policies, and what impact would they have on job creation?

Mr HOCKEY (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I thank the member for Indi for the question. I can report to the House that today the ABS reported that the unemployment rate in Australia is 4.4 per cent. I was reflecting, as I looked at the member for Adelaide, that in her lifetime the unemployment rate has never before reached that level. In fact, 1974 was the last time that the Australian unemployment rate was at 4.4 per cent. In the 12 months since we introduced a new industrial relations system for Australia, 326,000 new jobs have been created; 85 per cent of those jobs are full time; and anyone with an ounce of compassion in their body would be pleased at the fact that the teenage full-time unemployment to population ratio has fallen to 3.7 per cent. Teenage unemployment is 3.7 per cent.

I am asked about threats. The greatest threat to the continuing economic prosperity of the nation is the possible election of a Rudd Labor government. No better evidence of that have we seen than the Labor Party’s industrial relations policy, which was released at their national conference—the policy that now is in a total mess, the policy that, before it had actually been delivered, had been changed in the moments before, when the one-stop shop became a two-stop shop. Secondly, they changed on the minimum wage. They said there were 10 national employment standards, but—oops—they forgot the minimum wage, and now there are 11 national employment standards. They said that there were 24 months of ‘guaranteed’ leave for Australian families, and then we find out from the member for Rankin that in fact it is 12 months with a nice letter. And, on pattern bargaining, the Labor Party in their policy document say they will allow it to come back into the workplace, and then we find out from The 7.30 Report that the Leader of the Opposition has changed that policy as well—reversal No. 4. In reversal No. 5, we heard about bargaining fees. They seemed to make this policy on Neil Mitchell’s program, where the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that, yes, you could charge bargaining fees. Only a few days later on 3AW, on the same program, the Leader of the Opposition said, ‘No, you can’t charge bargaining fees.’

But I can report to the House that there is now a sixth change—can you believe it? Six in 12 days. This is on arbitration. It gets a little tricky here, but in their policy the Labor Party say that there will be last resort arbitration. Reading the Australian today, I nearly choked on my Weeties again. It is going to happen one of these days when I am eating Weeties. If they keep changing their policy, I am going to just fall over and choke on the Weeties. This morning in the Australian I read that the Labor Party had changed its policy on arbitration.

So small business is confused about the Labor Party’s IR policy. Big business is confused about the Australian Labor Party’s policy. The workers of Australia are confused. I can only hope that the Leader of the House will get the answer on the Today show tomorrow morning, when he debates the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

Honourable members interjecting—

Mr HOCKEY —You are not debating her tomorrow morning? The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is debating herself tomorrow morning! It should be a good debate—there are two sides to the argument on a number of issues. You do not need to have two people for a debate; just put the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on TV. It will be great entertainment.

Do you know what, Mr Speaker? This is a fundamental issue. The Labor Party has failed on economic policy. The Labor Party is failing on industrial relations policy. And, when it comes to running the nation, you cannot make a mess of your industrial relations policy the way the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has.