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Tuesday, 8 November 2005
Page: 77


Mr RANDALL (7:26 PM) —In speaking on the Workplace Relations Amendment (Work Choices) Bill 2005 this evening, I do so because it provides Australians with the opportunity to ensure their prosperity for a generation. I reiterate that: this is a golden opportunity that we as the federal government will be seizing to provide an opportunity for future generations of Australians in terms of prosperity. But, not to be dismayed, the Labor Party and the opposition oppose this measure. Listening to the member for Capricornia just makes you realise how irrelevant they are in the debate and how irrelevant they are in the Australian electorate.


Ms Livermore —We’ll see about that.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Baldwin)—Order! The member will refrain as she leaves the chamber.


Mr RANDALL —The member for Capricornia, for example, just spews out this rhetoric. Why doesn’t she stand up for her electorate? We would have been far better off having Paul Marek in this place, because at least he would have made a contribution, unlike the member for Capricornia, who just regurgitates the union line on behalf of her political masters.

Why do the ALP oppose this legislation? They oppose it for 42 million reasons—in fact, it could be far more than 42 million. It is because he who pays the piper calls the tune. And who is paying the Labor Party, who controls them, but their union masters—the ones who control their preselections.


Mr Dutton interjecting


Mr RANDALL —Bill Shorten is on his way. Yes, we hear about that, Member for Maribyrnong. I am sorry; I should not do that, but I do—


Mr Sercombe interjecting


Mr RANDALL —I am not allowed to bet in this House, Member for Maribyrnong; sorry.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Canning will not respond to interjections.


Mr RANDALL —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, but can I say—


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Nor will the member for Maribyrnong make them.


Mr RANDALL —that in this House we know that the Labor Party are controlled by their masters in the union movement. Why have they gone so feral in this last week or so? Because they are trying to demonstrate to their preselectors that they are engaged on this. They want to be thrown out of the House. A record number of people have been thrown out of this House because they see it as a badge of honour. In fact, poor old Jill Hall over there from whatever her electorate is tried so hard for days to get thrown out because she wanted to go out and put out a press release saying, ‘I got thrown out because I made a noise about this issue.’ In fact, some of them are even trying to be named because they want to see in Hansard that they saw it as some badge of honour that they got thrown out on behalf of this issue—because their preselections are not far away. I know I hit a bit of a raw nerve in here the other day, mentioning some of these things.

At the end of the day the union movement are connected to the Labor Party. We know they are affiliated. We know that the frontbench of the Labor Party either have a working history with the unions or must become union members. It is mandatory for Labor Party members in this House to belong to a union. If they are not a member, they have to join one by the time they get here. They usually have a working history or a career in the union movement to get here. Nothing has changed. You saw who replaced the member for Werriwa—another union hack in this place. Instead of bringing talent into the House, they brought in another hack. They are not even trying to renew themselves; they are just putting in these stooges that have got some sort of pat on the back from the union because have been good servants over the years.

The reason the Workplace Relations Amendment (Work Choices) Bill 2005 has been brought before the House cannot be said any better than the Royal Commissioner Cole’s comments on page 13, volume 11 of the Final Report of the Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry. I will refer to a couple of items. This is why this bill is before the House. He said:

There is widespread disrespect for, disregard of and breach of the law in the building and construction industry. The criminal, industrial and civil law is breached with impunity. Agreements made are not honoured. The result is that industrial power, not right or entitlement, determines outcomes. Short term commercial expediency prevails.

He goes on:

The culture in the industry is that the criminal law does not apply because industrial circumstances are involved. The attitude is that the applicability of industrial law is optional because there is no body whose function it is to enforce it, or which has the will, capacity and resources to do so.

In the following paragraph he says:

Head contractors and subcontractors are subject to severe cost penalties for delayed completion. Industrial unrest and stoppages cause immediate loss from standing charges and overheads, and prospective loss from liquidated damages.

In contrast, unions suffer no loss from unlawful industrial action. They know they will not be held accountable for unlawful industrial action by the criminal, industrial or civil law. The result is inevitable. Concessions are made based on short term, pragmatic, project profitability considerations. The result is the rule of law is diminished. Productivity is diminished to the disadvantage of the Australian economy, contractors, subcontractors and employees.

Governments of both political persuasions, and at the Commonwealth and State level have been endeavouring to change the culture of the industry for at least 20 years. The findings of this Commission make plain that those attempts have failed.

In the final paragraph on page 13 he says:

To achieve cultural change, and re-establish the rule of law in the building and construction industry, a comprehensive package of reforms is necessary.

That is what is happening. That is what this legislation is doing—‘a comprehensive package of reforms is necessary’. This government are a government of reform. We take the hard decisions. We have got a bit of ticker when it comes to taking reform decisions in this place. We are not the cowardly lion without a heart; we are the ones who do not mind actually taking on the political challenge.

I was a casualty of hard political reform when I was the member for Swan. In 1998 I lost my seat, as 19 of us did on this side of the House, because we took a tough decision. That was the price we paid. People get confused. Disinformation campaigns and negative campaigns are far more effective than positive campaigns. The people in the electorate of Swan, for example, thought the GST was going to be the worst thing that ever happened to them—that they would lose their houses and their jobs. The Labor Party ran on that for three elections. Then they went into roll-back. We know now how disingenuous that was, because the states love what is happening as a result of that tax reform package and in so many other areas.

In this bill we are taking the tough decisions for the benefit of Australia and the productivity of this country. Why is Australia in the position it is in today? Why is Australia a stellar performer in the international community from an economic point of view? It is because we have taken the decisions to deregulate and reform industry in many areas so that productivity will increase. It is no miracle that Australia has achieved this. It is not that Australia is just falling in line with world trends, as some people like to say. The French thought it was fantastic recently when they were able to go from 10.2 per cent unemployment to 10.1 per cent. The new French Prime Minister, Mr de Villepin—he had only been there a month—claimed credit for this marvellous improvement. The German government is in disarray for the same reason. It is a government in paralysis. It cannot get on with any reform because it is controlled by a severe Left agenda. The Italians are much the same. They would love to be able to get through their parliament the industrial laws that we proposing in this country. In fact, I was able to speak to members of a recent Italian delegation. They harbour the wish to be able to do what we are doing in Australia.

Over the channel, it is no mistake that the British are so productive and are going through a huge economic boom. The real labour leader in this world, Mr Blair, decided he would retain the Conservative reforms, and he told them so right up front. As a result, the Brits have got high levels of employment and high levels of investment, and their economy is bounding along in a stellar way.

What does this bill set out to achieve? I would like to go into all the details, but because of time I will summarise the government’s main changes. The bill proposes a single national system, which 85 per cent of employees will be eventually covered by; and a Fair Pay Commission, which will see wages set in a very fair way so that people keep up. There was all that rhetoric from the member for Capricornia about wages going backwards. The best thing that has ever happened to this country is that we have had real wages growth of nearly 15 per cent in 9½ years. Under the Labor Party in 13 years they could only claim 1.2 per cent. They bragged about driving wages down. The so-called great servants of the working class, which is an absolute misnomer, claimed to have driven down the wages of the workers of this country. We have increased them by 15 per cent. All the economic indicators support that.

Other reforms in this legislation include the fair pay and conditions standards, which will include minimum conditions of employment et cetera. Employees may negotiate individual workplace agreements. We know that the Labor Party hate that. Latham said before the last election that he would wind them all back, yet in Western Australia, unlike all of the other states, 30 per cent of our work force is on an AWA. Because of the strong mining and construction industry, 30 per cent of Western Australians are on an AWA. They are voting with their feet, and I will address that in a moment when I compare AWAs with the EEAs.

Employees not covered by agreements will continue to work under awards. This is what these reforms do. On dismissal laws, instead of small businesses having to pay people go-away money—generally about $3,000 to save going to court—we are going to protect small businesses with up to 100 people so that they can get on with the business of making a profit and employing people. They will be protected with regard to the unfair dismissal laws.

In relation to industrial action, the Industrial Relations Commission will provide a remedy for unprotected action et cetera within 48 hours. Secret ballots will be required. Shock, horror! The Labor Party hate secret ballots. You have to put up your hand. Many blokes on work sites will tell you—and I doubt whether many on that side have ever been on a work site; they are generally hacks in the union office rather than workers on a work site—that they want a secret ballot because, if they stick their hand in the air, they get their windows smashed on the way home. That is the intimidation that comes your way if you identify that you are going to go against some directive that the union bosses give you. And we know the sorts of fun and games that go into that.

In 2000 only 16 per cent of Western Australians were covered by federal industrial awards. Yet, last year—this current reporting year—30.4 per cent were on those awards. Interestingly, after the previous government in Western Australia, the Court government, was sacked and Geoff Gallop’s government took power, they changed the award system in Western Australia to what they call EEAs, employee-employer arrangements. They are a very draconian type of award and very few people in Western Australia want to be on them. This is how unsuccessful they are: in the year 2004-05, only 162 of these awards were finalised, yet at the same time 135,000 people joined a federal award. How is that? What does 135,000 compared to 162 tell you? The workers have made their choices and they are voting with their feet. They want to be involved in the federal system because of the benefits it gives. They get more money; they get more pay. They can determine their conditions and make a flexible arrangement. If you are a mum who has kids at school and you want to organise your time so that you can pick them up after school, you can. You do not have this one-off bargain that you have to take the pattern for from the union dominated award.

The CFMEU have been trying to badger their people onto this award system, but some of the elements are bizarre. That is why people do not want to be on these awards and employees just cannot work with them. These are the latest CFMEU enterprise bargaining agreement demands in Western Australia for this year, which would come into force in November. Some silly people either have been coerced into them or have just decided to join them. The arrangement they are trying to put into place goes until 2008. I do not want to take up too much time because I have far more to say, unfortunately, but I will just read some of the things they would like in this award.

They would like the award to say that you do not actually have to be sick to take sick days off; that sick leave can be converted into cash if not taken; that you get one paid rostered day off every second week—in other words, 26 a year; that there will be a reduction in the standard hours of working from 38 hours to 36; that shift work will be paid at double time; and that employers will not have the right to sack an employee who is affected by drugs or alcohol if the employee agrees to get counselling, regardless of how many times the employee attends the work site affected by drugs or alcohol. This is in the arrangement that they are endeavouring to get people to sign on to in Western Australia. Employees who are affected by drugs or alcohol will be allowed to continue to work if they can demonstrate to a committee of their peers, which includes union representatives and employee representatives, that they can work safely. You could have a bloke done up to the eyeballs on speed or something, trying to demonstrate to the blokes on site that he can work safely. I do not think so.

They also want productivity allowances of $1.20 per hour, to be paid regardless of whether or not productivity levels are good. Employers will be forced to pay $23.80 a week for fares and travel allowance, even if the employee lives next-door to the work site, and fares and travel allowance is to be paid even if the employee is on a rostered day off and does not actually travel to work. How bizarre is this? If the place were full, people would be falling in the aisles laughing about this being imposed on employers.

All employees finishing work after 11 pm must be provided with a hot meal. Too bad if it is a hot summer night. Every subcontractor on site—bricklayers, glaziers, carpenters, tilers et cetera—is to employ a union imposed safety representative, who is to be issued with one fully fitted-out office. That is a fitted-out office for each union lackey. Employers will be forced to apply union negotiated wages and conditions to non-union workers to prevent employers from paying them more than union members. And it goes on. Redundancy pay also applies to an employee if he is sacked. Insurance is to be taken out. Personal accident and sickness income protection insurance for every employee can cost up to three per cent of your payroll. There is heaps more there. I would like to table that, but I have not got time.

Ultimately, we know that the abuse of safety issues is borne out through the Cole royal commission. Every time the union want to enter a site they talk about a safety issue, even if there is not a safety issue. There is chapter and verse in the cases that were listed in the Cole royal commission in Western Australia. I have referred to that in this House before, so you can check that in Hansard. These are the sorts of conditions the union would like to impose.

Interestingly, Australia currently has 5.1 per cent unemployment. That is a record; it has not been better for about 60 years. That is because we have taken strong reform measures, as I said earlier. Yet today in the House the Leader of the Opposition pooh-poohed the fact that, although New Zealand have taken similar sorts of reforms, they are not lower than us. In fact, he was badgering us about the New Zealand experience. But it was pointed out by the Prime Minister afterwards that New Zealand are down to 3.7 per cent.

Bizarrely—I remember these things—the former New Zealand High Commissioner to Australia came to see me once because the then Leader of the Opposition—and he is reincarnated as the Leader of the Opposition now; Kim Beazley, the member for Brand—said, ‘New Zealand have low unemployment because all their unemployed people come to Australia.’ Can you believe he said that? He said that New Zealand’s unemployment level is so low because their unemployed people come to Australia to get a job. The New Zealand high commissioner came to see me. Interestingly, his name was Randall but he was no relation. He was offended and appalled that Mr Beazley would attack New Zealand’s genuine workplace reforms like that.

To demonstrate, an article by Kim Macdonald in the West Australian headed ‘Union-deal sites hit most trouble: builders’ says:

Building sites which have union agreements cop more industrial flak than those which do not, according to the Master Builders Association.

…       …            …

Leighton general manager Ray Sputore ... said some sites which had union pay deals were suffering.

“It’s an interesting observation—

Sputore said—

that those who enter into certified agreements with the unions are the ones that appear to be getting hurt by the unions ...

Broad Construction ... Kari Rummukainen said—

he—

would not sign the new union enterprise bargaining agreement because—

he—

feared that the union would not honour the agreement and would engage in spurious stoppages.

…            …            …

A spokesman for John Holland ... said it would not re-sign after its existing union agreement expired in October—

for the same sorts of reasons. So the industry are waking up. They are realising that this government is going to give them protection. This government is actually interested in seeing people in jobs. It is interested in seeing a generation of prosperity by taking the necessary reforms. It will reduce the ability of union officials to stick their bibs into the minority of workplaces. In fact, it will provide people with transportable skills, it will provide them with the ability to acquire new ones and it will take them into flexible workplaces. But the Labor Party offer doom and gloom, as they did with the GST: ‘The sky is going to fall in. The world as we know it will finish today.’ We are actually getting more people into the work force. They have more money in their pockets. We will provide a golden era for Australian workers from now on. Not only will they have jobs from now into the future but this future will be secure and the futures of their families will be secure because of these reforms, which I support. (Time expired)