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Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Page: 6890

Occupational Health and Safety


Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:01): My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to her claim last year in answer to a question about her achievements that she had delivered national occupational health and safety laws. 'Some public servants actually had tears in their eyes,' she said. 'It wasn't easy,' she boasted, 'but I got it done.' Can the Prime Minister confirm that national OH&S laws have not been delivered and that the year of decision and delivery has become instead a year of backflips and broken promises?


Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:01): I am afraid from his question that the Leader of the Opposition is betraying how little he knows about this important area of economic reform. What I was required to do in my capacity as the relevant minister was to work with state and territory colleagues around the country to enter an agreement which would enable parliaments around the country to enact model laws and then enable those model laws to be followed up with the required codes and regulations, which would mean that wherever you were in the country, wherever you worked, as a working person you would have the benefits of the same protections and standards and that, as an employer, you would not have to engage with different regimes in different parts of the country.

The quote that the Leader of the Opposition is referring to is my quote about what happened at the ministerial council the day that we struck this historic agreement. That was a very important moment of microeconomic reform, 30 years in the seeking, which was then delivered through that agreement between ministers, and that agreement is being actioned. The only problem, of course, with actioning that agreement has been the issues of the Liberal government in Western Australia, which wanted in part to stand outside the system. I say to the Leader of the Opposition—

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! A question has been asked, and the Prime Minister is responding to it. The Prime Minister should be heard in silence.

Ms GILLARD: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. We continue to work through with the government of Western Australia, and I was very pleased to see their cooperative attitude.

In coming to this parliament and playing politics with this matter, what the Leader of the Opposition is really betraying is that he does not care anything about the future of our country and the strength of our economy. First and foremost, I would say to the Leader of the Opposition: if he really thinks these major microeconomic reforms are so easy, why wasn't it achieved under the Howard government? In 11 long years, this microeconomic reform was never achieved under the Howard government. COAG after COAG, then Prime Minister John Howard would go and sit down with his counterparts and enter agreements saying that he was going to get it done, and it never got done. It took this Labor government to strike this agreement after more than a decade of neglect by those opposite.

If those opposite are in any doubt about the power of this agenda—this agenda we continue to pursue for a seamless national economy—then I suggest they put down their politics of protest for two or three minutes and actually go and talk to some of Australia's leading businesspeople who have been here in the parliament for the Business Council of Australia meeting. What they will find is not underestimation of the signifi¬≠cance of this reform; they will find deep understanding of the significance of this reform. They will also, if the Leader of the Opposition wants to ask them, wonder with him why this reform was not progressed under the Howard government. So to the Leader of the Opposition I would say: when you have a track record of no achievement, it seems a little bit odd to be criticising those who have achieved.

Mr Abbott: Mr Speaker, on a point of order—

The SPEAKER: The Prime Minister has concluded.