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Monday, 3 March 2003
Page: 8903

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (7:36 PM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a third time.

I simply make the point in respect of a range of amendments that have been passed by the Senate that the government does not agree with them; they undermine in many respects the key reform elements that the government is trying to put into law by way of this amending bill, the Workplace Relations Amendment (Fair Dismissal) Bill 2002 [No. 2]. I would very briefly say that both Senator Murray and Senator Sherry tried to imply during the committee stage debate that this was some sort of game and some sort of political stunt and that the government's motivation is a trigger under section 57 of the Constitution. The government's objective is to reform the law in a way that will encourage employment—that is our only objective. That is why we have been so committed to this reform of unfair dismissal laws for so long. It is something that Liberals hold as a key part of our economic platform and have done so for many years.

We certainly went to the 1998 election and the last federal election with this particular bill as a core part of our platform, and we were re-elected with it. I do not think anyone could say that this is not an absolutely core Liberal Party commitment and, dare I say in the absence of my good friend the Victorian National Party senator and deputy whip, Julian McGauran, a core National Party commitment as well. I do not think anyone would say that this is something that the Liberal Party and the coalition government have not been entirely upfront about. It is obviously a fundamental disagreement between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party—or the coalition. We do not want to have to play a game. We are not interested in games; we are interested in getting the bill passed. That is the absolute desire of all members on this side of the chamber and I think I can say that with total conviction. It is rare to be able to say that in a party that is—

Senator IAN CAMPBELL —Both Senator Abetz and I agree on that. In fact, all the senators who are not able to join us here tonight but who are studying the debate, glued to their monitors in their suites and working furiously at correspondence and other things, agree that this is an important measure and that we would far prefer to have it passed. We do not want section 57 to come into play; we want this law. That is our preference. I think it is unfair to say that we are here for a game. It might suit Senator Murray to say that we are not really serious about this and that we are just trying to create a trigger. It might relieve the moral dilemma that I hope he finds himself in, but that is not the case. I speak for myself, and I am sure I can speak for Senator Abetz, when I say that this is something that we are committed to because we believe it will be good for Australia and it will be good for the people I referred to earlier in the day—the most disadvantaged in our society who suffer the most as a consequence of the way the law is at the moment.

Senator Sherry had a go at me for using words such as `efficiency', `effectiveness' and `a growing economy'. We believe that a whole suite of economic reforms were needed and continue to be needed to make the Australian economy as productive as it can be and to ensure that the wealth of that production is shared equitably amongst all Australians. Employment growth is a crucial part of that. The one great thing you can do for someone who is looking for work—to empower them, to make them part of the community, to enable them to build their own self-esteem—is to allow them to have a job and to give them a chance. That is what we are asking for. Setting aside the debate about whether you get 50,000 jobs or 10,000 jobs or even one job, let us just say, `Give it a go. Give these people a chance.' That is all we are saying. We are not interested in political games at all. We are not interested in having a section 57. We want this law passed and we are dedicated to that. We will be supporting the third reading, even though we do not like the way the bill is amended, so the government in the other place can at least consider the amendments that have been made by the Senate. I remain pessimistic about the outcome on the other side of the hallowed halls that divide our two chambers.