Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 29 March 2004
Page: 27503

Mr RANDALL (8:53 PM) —It is my pleasure this evening to speak on the Workplace Relations Amendment (Award Simplification) Bill 2002. I am very pleased to do so, because this is a bill which again does something for the workers of Australia. It again provides a more flexible work force, which means people can do better—not worse—under our industrial relations reforms. Under the industrial relations reforms of this government, the workers of Australia have enjoyed better conditions and pay. That is an indisputable fact: they have received more money because they have negotiated a better deal.

On every occasion in these cases the opposition fail to tell you that the award is a safety net and people cannot do any worse than the award. There is a simple criterion in this which is that you are not going to do any worse than the award. As a result, people are not going to be worse off—they can only be better off—under our industrial relations reforms. Let us get that out of the way in the first place. This is an absolute furphy. The previous speaker spoke about lies—I will not say that, but the line that the opposition is running is terribly misleading, because it is not true.

Mr Brendan O'Connor —It is true.

Mr RANDALL —It is demonstrably not true, and they run this line all the time.

Mr Brendan O'Connor —Ignoramus!

Mr RANDALL —The member opposite can call me names and all that sort of stuff. If that is his way, he can call names and be as pathetic as we expect him to be. At the end of the day, this simplification removes only three provisions from the award structure. Let us look at one of them. One of the ones—can you believe it!—that the opposition spokesman, the member for Rankin, railed against in this House was the removal of picnic days. Who in their right mind would think that you would go to the barricades over picnic days for unions? Let us get this in context: are we really expecting the wharfies and the grano workers of this world to take their families down to some designated park on these so-called picnic days, sit down there on a blanket with a wicker cane basket and a bunch of sandwiches and use this day as a proper picnic day for their families? I suggest that they will be in the front bar of the local boozer spending the money that they should rightfully be out there earning on behalf of the people that employ them. Who pays for this picnic day? No-one but the person who employs the people on this award that they want to maintain. It is an absolute disgrace that the Labor Party can continue to go on about wanting picnic days in the award. If you are so keen on picnic days, then negotiate one. If you are so productive, your employer will give you a picnic day—you will be able to negotiate it. But do not try and maintain it in the award as a picnic day. That is something out of the dinosaur age that most of the people on the opposite side think we should go back to. People in this country would laugh at you if they thought that you were going to the barricades over a picnic day; let us just get that into context.

The other provision that the member who spoke previously mentioned was about jury duty. It is your civic right to go and do jury duty. I suggest that there is no employer in this country who would not want to see one of their workers at least front up and be examined to see whether they could be on a jury. Very few people actually get onto a jury—I have never been asked to even go down and submit myself for a jury. But for the few people that actually get the opportunity to do so, it can certainly be negotiated by their employer. That is what the flexibility of this award reform system gives you: the opportunity to negotiate these sorts of arrangements. They are just two of the things that the people on the opposite side want to carry on about: jury duty and picnic days for unions. At the end of the day, this is not worth going to the barricades for.

The member for Rankin was going on about tearing away the safety net—and you heard the poor chap who spoke before me going on about the same sort of thing—but it is just not true. The safety net is still there, and the no disadvantage test makes sure that you cannot be worse off under this system. Let us be clear about that: put in place and administered by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, the no disadvantage test says that you cannot be worse off than the negotiated award. The people opposite are the prisoners of the union movement that put them here and pay $40 million towards their election campaigns and tell them when they come into this House, `Our faction put you here, through our preselection process.' We know what is going on in Western Australia with the preselection processes at the moment: unions claiming to own this one and that one. At the end of the day, the members opposite come in here because they are owned by a union, and they are told to come in and oppose this. The opposition have opposed every industrial reform in this House. They have opposed it because their union bosses told them that they had to.

We know that in this country now union membership is down to about 17 per cent, yet 78 per cent of the opposition people that are members in this House or senators in the other place have a union working background. As a result, they do not properly represent the electorate of Australia. It is just so out of kilter and out of whack that they are not representative of the Australia that people on this side, for example, represent because we come from such a diverse background. Because they are here at the behest of their union bosses, they are told to come in and vote against these reforms which make Australia more productive.

Australia is a model economy in the world. Why do we have low inflation, high investment and low unemployment in this country? It does not happen by accident; it happens through proper sound economic management. One of the great management tools that this government has been able to provide is a more flexible work force which gets better pay and better jobs and better conditions for workers of this country.

Debate interrupted.