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Thursday, 13 March 2008
Page: 1746


Ms JULIE BISHOP (2:07 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion. Given that today’s employment figures prove the government has inherited the lowest unemployment rate in 34 years, will the minister now release a report commissioned by her department which conservatively estimates that Labor’s industrial relations changes will increase unemployment by up to 2.4 per cent, with job losses of up to 268,000? How can the minister claim there will be no job losses as a result of the new government’s law? Does the minister really understand the impact of her laws on jobs for Australian workers and their families?


Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) —I thank the honourable member for her question. Unfortunately, in the way she has premised her question, she has misled the House. And she would be aware that she has misled the House, because the Econtech report that she refers to—a copy of which, I presume, was taken from government offices when the former members of the government left and was released to a newspaper—which appears in the newspapers today, does not model Labor’s industrial relations policy.

Opposition members interjecting—


Ms GILLARD —Isn’t it interesting that we are getting cries of ‘release it’ from across the chamber, when this was a report prepared for the former government and they did not release it—presumably because when they were in government their standards were a little bit higher and they knew how laughable it was. But in the short walk from this side to that side, their standards have slipped lower and now they want something released which they obviously viewed as so laughable that it was not worth releasing. I say again to the member who misled the House: the Econtech report does not model Labor’s policy on its own terms. Are you going to apologise for misleading the House?


Ms Julie Bishop —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. A report commissioned by the minister’s department is precisely that. If she has a substantive motion to make, she ought to make it.


The SPEAKER —There is no point of order.


Ms GILLARD —The report was received by the former government, which did not release it, presumably because they were of the view that it was laughable—and it was laughable because it did not model anybody’s industrial relations policy. The former government, in pursuit of their Work Choices campaign—a campaign they are still pursuing now—decided to deliberately feed in stupid and incorrect assumptions in the hope of getting out of the process something that they could politically use. Interestingly, when they were in government, they decided that this report could not be used by them even for that purpose. On the question of the impact of Labor’s laws—


Ms Julie Bishop —On jobs.


Ms GILLARD —The member opposite who is interjecting might like to listen to the answer. It would seem to me passing strange that, if the member genuinely believes that Labor’s laws are bad for jobs, she is not opposing them—and when she went into her party room saying that she wanted to oppose them she was repudiated at the highest level of her party. On the question of the impact of Labor’s laws, can I say that Labor’s laws are calibrated to be good for productivity, good for collective bargaining—


Mr Hockey interjecting


Ms GILLARD —Productivity increases are good for the economy. They feed into a cycle that is good for the economy, including all economic indicators. Labor’s policy is of course about fairness at work—something members opposite never understood when they sat on this side and do not understand now when they sit over there. They do not understand that there is nothing fair about people going to work and having pay and conditions ripped off them. The member for North Sydney interjects: ‘There is nothing fair about people losing their jobs.’ Absolutely. That is why we are fixing the unfair dismissal laws. It was possible under Work Choices—your laws—and it is still possible under Work Choices today for an excellent worker who has done nothing wrong, who works in a business with fewer than 100 employees, to be dismissed without any reason and get no remedy. So do not sit there and tell me that it is good for jobs that an excellent worker who supports a family could be dismissed without reason or remedy—your laws; your industrial relations extremism; and more nonsense from the party of Work Choices.


The SPEAKER —Order! In future, the Deputy Prime Minister will assist the chair by not taking the member for North Sydney’s interjections as a supplementary question, and the member for North Sydney will not interject.