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Wednesday, 29 March 2006
Page: 79

Senator PARRY (3:20 PM) —I also rise to take note of the answers of Minister Abetz. A negative picture has just been portrayed by the opposition of the situation that now arises in the workplace in Australia. Let me explain, as Senator Lightfoot did, with some of my real-life experiences as an employer. Every employer in this country wants the best out of any workforce. With any workforce you employ, you want the best. That includes harmony within the workplace. It includes productivity issues. It includes happiness. Modern employers realise that you need to have a happy and congenial workplace for productivity.

Employers are not going to disrupt a system where productivity is paramount and where harmonious relationships need to be constantly in place. Let us look at the positives, not the negatives. It is very easy to come in here and be negative about any situation. By and large, employers are going to want the best that is possible out of any situation, any employment contract and any employment base. I would like to think that employers listening to this broadcast, if they have time to do so, would understand that this is a government that is very concerned about moving Australia forward.

We would be criticised strongly if we did not pursue the best interests of this nation as a whole. Part of the reason for our strong economy, for us moving forward and for the whole direction of this government is to have reform constantly. You cannot sit back; you cannot stay in one place forever and a day and say: ‘This has been working well since the early 1900s. Let’s keep it going at that same pace.’ We have built into the new industrial relations reforms things that are going to take this country forward. Senators opposite mentioned that that was what they wanted to do. In particular, I quite rightly agree with my colleague Senator Lightfoot, that it sounded as though Senator Bishop was talking about our policies when he was trying to elicit information or suggest that the Labor Party cares for workers well into the future. We do. It is quite evident that we do. The legislation speaks for itself on how we do it.

Senator Marshall asked Senator Lightfoot as he was leaving: ‘Why didn’t you speak about the legislation?’ I will talk about some of the benefits of the legislation. I will highlight them so that they are on the public record once again. The regulations are really here to protect us. Certainly, the regulations are going to highlight some of the issues that need to be dealt with. One of the issues is that the minister may intervene at any time in proceedings before the AIRC. That was under the old system. Now this power of intervention is going to be replicated in sections 102 and 103 of the Workplace Relations Act. It has been necessary to fix up some of these provisions.

Another claim about the provision of information to the minister was that the regulations provided for the AIRC, together with the OEA, to provide certain information to the minister. This is essentially a replication of provisions that applied under the old system. For example, under the old system, the president of the AIRC was required to provide the minister with detailed information. This included information on industrial action and disputes.

Senator Marshall —The benefits?

Senator PARRY —That is correct. Everything is a benefit under the new system. The Work Choices legislation and regulations represent the unwinding of 100 years of complex, confusing and overlapping legislation which has been unnecessary for a long period of time. It was also suggested earlier by senators opposite that we introduced this legislation in a rushed manner. This legislation was well thought out over a long period of time. It has taken a long time to develop the best system to move Australia forward. We will find as time marches on that this government will be credited for improving the situation within the workplace and making greater workplaces in this country. But, more importantly, it is taking us forward in a more productive way and is creating more employment opportunities. I note that the Labor Party indicated that there are now 70,000 more people wanting to join the unions. What they failed to say is that that represents— (Time expired)

Question agreed to.