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Thursday, 13 November 2008
Page: 10908

Mr SYMON (2:06 PM) —My question is to the Acting Prime Minister. Will the Acting Prime Minister advise the House on how the government is achieving its commitment to delivering both fairness and balance in Australian workplaces and transparency and openness in government?

Ms GILLARD (Acting Prime Minister) —I thank the member for Deakin for his question, and I know that he is deeply interested in workplace relations and fairness and balance in workplaces and has been working closely with me on the development of the government’s new workplace relations legislation. I thank him for his efforts. When the Liberal Party was in office we saw industrial relations extremism in this country in the form of Work Choices. This government is committed to fairness and balance in workplaces and we will, before this parliament rises, deliver into this parliament for debate and determination our substantive bill to bring fairness to Australian workplaces.

But, as well as being industrial relations extremists, the Liberal Party in government were the masters of the cover-up, because they did not want working people to know—they did not want Australians to know—just how badly hit and hurt they had been by Work Choices and the industrial relations extremism of the Liberal Party. Indeed, the member for North Sydney, now the Manager of Opposition Business and then the relevant minister, used to make an art form of going round denying that such data existed. I am in a position today to advise members of the House and people more generally that we have worked to compile a sample of Australian workplace agreements which will be available for researchers, including members of the media, to use. The sample is now available on DVD-ROM, and what the sample does is compare pre-Work Choices Australian workplace agreements with Work Choices Australian workplace agreements. This is an interesting comparison because pre-Work Choices Australian workplace agreements were bad enough—there is no place for individual statutory employment agreements in a fair system—but, when you compare them to Work Choices Australian workplace agreements, what strikes you is that they look so much better, which is not a compliment to those old AWAs; it is a revelation about how bad Work Choices AWAs were for Australian workers brought to them by the industrial relations extremists in the Liberal Party.

To give you just a snapshot of that information, if we look at this sample, in the retail industry Work Choices AWAs, on average, reduced overtime penalty rates from 54 per cent to 35 per cent—that is, the number of people who got penalty rates in their agreement was reduced from 54 per cent to 35 per cent as a result of Work Choices AWAs. They were rip-offs taking away penalty rates. This also happened in the accommodation, cafe and restaurant industry, where we saw the number of agreements that had penalty rates for overtime reduced from 42 per cent to 20 per cent.

Opposition members interjecting—

Ms GILLARD —The industrial relations extremists chant out, ‘How much was their pay?’ when ABS data clearly shows, when comparing pay outcomes on Australian workplace agreements to pay outcomes on collective agreements, that they ripped people off. I am pleased with the interjections because they indicate yet again to the Australian people, in case they were in any doubt, that those on the other side are a party of industrial relations extremists that are still supporting Work Choices.

There is a test here for the Leader of the Opposition, who voted for Work Choices—voted in favour of it every time it was presented to this parliament. There he was, lined up as a member of the Howard government: ‘Workplace relations extremism? Count me in.’ Yes, he voted for that on each and every occasion. Now, shortly, he will have to make a choice as to whether he will still support workplace relations extremism or support a fair and balanced system. I would say to the Australian people on this issue: watch not what the Leader of the Opposition says but what he does when the Liberal Party votes on this matter.