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Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Page: 2262

Mr DANBY (2:01 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister inform the House of the impact of the abolition of Australian workplace agreements on working families?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —I thank the member for Melbourne Ports for his question. Today in this parliament we have declared dead and buried Australian workplace agreements. We have declared dead and buried in this parliament a set of industrial laws which made it possible for workplace agreements to strip working families of basic wages and conditions. Our attitude, which we took to the last election—was that AWAs had to be scrapped lock, stock and barrel—and that is what the legislation which has been put through this parliament by the Deputy Prime Minister has done.

Let us look at the AWAs we have got rid of. These are the AWAs that required longer working hours and paid less per hour than collective agreements. These are the AWAs that, in their thousands and tens of thousands, have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the pay packets of working men and women. These AWAs stripped away rest breaks, penalty rates, overtime pay and shift loadings. These AWAs, according to the Bureau of Statistics, made workers endure industrial arrangements which took, on average, $87 per week out of their pay packets compared to collective agreements. These are the AWAs and the industrial relations regime which those opposite were so proud to support.

On our side of the chamber we stand proudly by the fact that, in our legislation, we have honoured to the letter what we committed to the Australian people before the election. We have honoured to the letter the abolition of AWAs. We have honoured to the letter our commitment to Australian working families to construct in place of AWAs a decent, fair and balanced set of industrial relations arrangements for the future. ‘Decency’ in the Australian way of life means that everyone in the workplace gets a fair go, not just some. Looking to the future, I therefore find it extraordinary—absolutely extraordinary—that, on this day when we declared dead and buried Australian workplace agreements, when it was put to a vote in this parliament in a motion just before question time, those opposite could not bring themselves to support the part of the motion that read as follows:

In order to ensure the decent and fair treatment of Australian working families that statutory individual employment agreements should never again be reintroduced into Australian workplace relations laws.

The Liberal Party and the National Party of Australia opposed that. The Liberal Party and the National Party of Australia are therefore saying to the nation at large that they hold open the prospect—the intention—of reintroducing AWAs should they ever regain the Treasury benches. We on this side of the chamber made clear prior to the election our commitment to abolish AWAs. The Liberal Party and the National Party have made it clear today their intention to reintroduce AWAs.