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Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Page: 1062


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (19:06): Up-front I need to say to you that you are completely wrong in your analysis of the figures—completely wrong. You have also verballed me, I will not say deliberately; I am sure you have merely made a mistake. We did not say that 16 per cent of agreements were code compliant and therefore it automatically meant that 84 per cent were not. That is wrong.

Senator Cameron interjecting

Senator CASH: I said that the department had undertaken a survey of 100 agreements and had found that 16 per cent of those agreements include the types of clauses which I had referred to—in other words, when the law changes, the union has already agreed that the parties will renegotiate or vary the agreements.

It goes back to the basic premise, Senator Cameron. This is an opt-in scheme. You need to opt in to it. No-one forces you to opt in to it. If you want to participate in Commonwealth-funded works—some do, some don't; that is the nature of the lay of the land—and you do not have a code-compliant agreement, you need to vary your agreement. You have a nine-month lead-in time to do that. The number that vary their agreements will depend on the number who want to do future government-funded work. That's it.

Senator Cameron: Minister, what if no-one opts in?

Senator CASH: Senator Cameron, I actually do not even know how to answer that question, because it is so obtuse.

Senator Rhiannon interjecting

Senator CASH: It is hypothetical but obviously it will open the market up to a whole lot of other players who are prepared to opt into the system and currently have code-compliant agreements.