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Thursday, 10 May 2007
Page: 138

Mr HARDGRAVE (9:33 AM) — As we head towards decision day later in the year, it is important in an election to look at the philosophical underpinning of the two major political groupings in Australia. While the Liberal and National parties on the government side firmly believe that individuals should have the freedom to make choices, that we should trust people and that people have a great capacity to work their way through and look after themselves and their families and then offer assistance to society, my fear is that too many on the other side of the political spectrum are motivated by a real fear that people cannot be trusted, that they will make mistakes and that they are simply victims in waiting.

One of the real proofs of that particular philosophical difference is in the area of workplace relations. While the government’s Work Choices legislation has liberated the relationship between employers and employees, introduced trust back into the workforce and allowed small businesses to talk directly to their employees without having union officials come in and try to heavy-hand and overinfluence certain outcomes, the Labor Party want to see a return to that sort of environment. Labor say, ‘We want to make the workplace fair.’ But what is fair about a workplace where you can be sacked for not being a member of a union but you cannot be sacked if you steal from your boss? That was the sort of environment that existed in Australia before the changes we have been bringing about since 1996. What is fair about an environment where no ticket—no membership of a union—means no start? How can it be fair if you are forced to join an organisation and therefore that organisation and its leadership will never be responsive to you?

We need to make unions far more responsive to the needs of average workers. Part of the problem in the union movement in Australia today is that too many union officials have never been on the tools; they have never come from the shop floor. They have been university educated and, through a series of power plays, have worked their way into positions of influence and power and then they simply manipulate themselves into various parliaments and into other opportunities within the broad trade union movement. You only have to look at the profiles of people in this place, in state parliaments around this country, in the industrial relations commissions at the state level and in other places to realise that the point I make is absolutely true. There is nothing wrong with a university education or with professionalism, but there is something fundamentally wrong when it is the workers who seem to be last in the equation. We need to make sure that people in Australia understand that that is the environment we will have. Union officials will be standing by the tills in every small business, deciding who to hire, who to fire, what time the business opens, what time the business closes, what sorts of goods and what sorts of services are offered. We do not want this restrictive, untrusting environment in Australia. It is absolutely important that we look at the philosophical underpinning of the major political parties. While state workers say that they are against Work Choices, it is their state rules, not federal rules, which govern their conduct. (Time expired)