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Wednesday, 30 May 2007
Page: 26

Mr HARDGRAVE (10:55 AM) —Mr Deputy Speaker, thank you for your conduct in that regard. The member for Lilley is well known in Queensland. I have known him for 23 years and he is a bit of a joke, really. He is known around the ridges as the ‘member for gilding the Lilley’. Essentially, whatever he says is always a great exaggeration.

Let me tell you exactly what is in the Labor Party’s policy document with regard to industrial relations. Page 14 of the document says that the bargaining participants will be free to reach agreement on whatever matters suit them. But the key thing to remember is that no employee will be able to escape the mantra of ‘no ticket, no start’. If a Labor government is elected later this year, compulsory unionism, either through membership or by involvement in every employment agreement, will be the way Australia is run. Employees will have a union application form stuck under their nose every time they start a new job. Labor’s policy document says that unions will force employers into having the following requirements in workplace agreements: deductions from an employee’s pay or wages for trade union membership subscriptions, paid leave to attend trade union training or union meetings—it could be a barbecue—and bargaining fees to trade unions. So even if you do not want the union directly involved in your discussion you have to pay the union. There is no doubt what the opposition is about in this debate. It is all about the financial purchase the unions have over their decision making. Labor’s policy also says that it will provide unions with information about employees bound by the agreement; that any future agreement must be a union collective agreement, mandating that union involvement must always be there in dispute resolution.

The point I make is that members on the other side are afraid of the facts in relation to their own ambitions. They want a union thug at every door. They want a union boss at every cash register, deciding who is hired and who is fired, and they then take pointless efforts to stop—

A quorum having been called and the bells being rung—

Honourable members interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Wilkie)—Before this gets out of hand, I remind honourable members that privilege does not apply during quorums or divisions.

Mr HARDGRAVE —What the Australian Labor Party are afraid of is the fact that, while the government is introducing legislation to further underline the simple principle that people with skills and abilities can negotiate directly with their bosses and trade those skills and abilities to earn more, the Labor Party want to reinstitute a system where you can be sacked from your job for not being a member of a union—you can be sacked from your job for not being a member of a union but you cannot be sacked from your job if you steal from your boss. That is the sort of system that Labor had in place. That is the sort of system that members opposite continue to—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The member for Moreton will resume his seat. Honourable members are required to either take their seats or leave the chamber and not conduct conversations in the aisles.

Mr HARDGRAVE —Fair dinkum, the disruptions from those opposite do not need to be further enhanced by any further delays in this debate. The thing that is absolutely critical to this discussion is that, while the government is introducing further strengthening of the safety net to ensure you only go forward and you do not go backwards, proving the big fib of the scare campaign from those opposite, they are afraid to hear the fact that they want to re-sponsor a system that says ‘no ticket, no start’—where the unions are back in your life, you have to pay a fee to a union whether you like it or not, you can be sacked from your job for not having union membership but you cannot be sacked from your job if you steal from your boss. Those are the simple facts. Those are the differences that people have to decide on.

Whenever there is an election called later in the year people will have to make a simple choice: do you want the unions back in your life or do you want to have a system of workplace trust in place? The government’s Work Choices legislation, the reforms to the Workplace Relations Act that we introduced last year, has successfully grown the number of jobs—for one very plain and simple reason: the government has put in place a system that says to the employers of Australia, ‘You’ve been saying that, once Labor’s unfair dismissal law went, a law that said you could be sacked from your job for not being in a union but you couldn’t be sacked from your job if you stole from your boss, you would hire more people.’ We have given the confidence to the employers of Australia to hire more people—325,000 more jobs have been created. At the same time workplace trust has instilled a system where people with skills, abilities and experiences to trade have been able to do so.

In that old Industrial Revolution argument about the owners of capital versus the owners of labour, the owners of labour have the power in this country—they have the power to decide where they want to work and what they want to earn. The trade union movement is sidelined. The big impact for those opposite, with 26 out of the 30 members of the Labor Party frontbench being former union officials, is that they have their positions in this place delivered because of the union official status that they had before entering this place. That is their place in the scheme of things. The opposition frontbench, because of the affiliation fees that various unions bring to the Labor Party, and their influence on the decisions they make, are petrified that their circumstances are going to change. They are not worried about workers. You do not hear anything from the members of the Australian Labor Party about workers. They don’t represent workers; they represent—I was going to say ‘wankers’, but I guess that is unparliamentary, so I had better not. The point is that they do not represent workers; they represent the thugs of the union movement who want to have complete control over the way in which employment is generated in this country.

It is a time for workers in Australia to make a choice. If they have the skills and the abilities, something to trade when they go to their employer, and their employer does not respond, then at that point those workers are in a position where they can move elsewhere and take their job prospects to another place. That is what is happening. At the same time, under the government’s industrial relations changes introduced last year, most employers are doing the right thing. The few who have done the wrong thing have been highlighted in this place. Whether they have paid 2c an hour more or 45c an hour more, it does not really matter—either way, those employers do not deserve to have anybody working for them. What I would say to any employer who is not realising the opportunity they have to cement the relationship between them and their employees, to create a circumstance where people are well rewarded for their efforts, their skills, their abilities and their experience, is: you don’t deserve to have anybody working for you. I am on the side of the workers. People on this side of the chamber are on the side of the workers. But on the other side they are on the side of the union thugs, the union bosses—the people who put them here and who keep them here.

You only have to look at the efforts of the Commonwealth public sector union. A couple of months ago they said, ‘We want every Commonwealth public servant, everybody hired by the Commonwealth, if a change of government occurs later in the year, to compulsorily join the Commonwealth public sector union.’ Why? Affiliation fees. Why? Affiliation fees purchase power. Affiliation fees also mean they will be able to get more members of the Left into the federal cabinet. That is what this is really all about. In Labor’s industrial relations program is the forced joining of unions. In the policy they have announced people will be forced to join a union—no ticket, no start. That is what Labor’s vision for Australia is. It is all about the power plays that are necessary in order to cement people in certain positions in this place. That is what it is all about. There is nothing there about the workers. It is not about workers getting some advantage—after all, if it were, they would actually be heralding the fact that we have seen a massive increase in people’s personal incomes. Real wages have risen 23.4 per cent over the life of this government and they continue to grow. Strikes in 2006 reached the lowest level on record, which simply means that we are not seeing the union bosses muscling in, pushing people around, acting like the thugs they are capable of being and forcing people out of work and out of money over some particular principle. Remember the great tomato sauce strikes of the seventies and eighties? There was no tomato sauce in the cafeteria so it was, ‘Righto, brothers—all out!’ That was what they made them do. When the Darling Harbour project was being built in the eighties, 20 years ago, there were the ‘dim sim strikes’. What did that deliver for the BLF? The dim sim allowance. They could smell the Chinese restaurants of Sussex Street cooking lunch, which put them off their work—and until they got a dim sim allowance of five bucks a day, or whatever it was, they were not going back to work!

That is the sort of lunacy that Labor’s industrial relations delivered in the past. While we have put 23.4 per cent extra on average into people’s pay packets and have delivered 4.4 per cent unemployment, and the focus is on getting it down even lower, the Labor Party’s record shows a small rate of wage growth and the suppression of workers’ ambitions—(Quorum formed) We have had yet another wasted point of order by an opposition member who does not want the truth. The Labor Party call a stop-work meeting every time the going gets tough. It is like the great tomato sauce strike and the dim sim allowance strike all over again.

Here am I, outing the truth that, under Labor, wages went down by 1.8 per cent. That is what they did. The accord of 1983 was all about suppressing the workers. I have heard the member for Lilley say, ‘Let’s get back to an accord type context.’ That is all about taking workers and employers as far away as is humanly possible and putting up a whopping great big wall called the union movement between them. We are saying that we want to see workers and employers negotiate with each other. We want to see employers appreciate their workers and reflect that in the pay packet. We want to see employers and workers work out a way that will work for them. We want to see more full-time jobs created, and that is exactly what we have been able to do. We have been able to restore a sense of trust. But we have conceded, through this legislation, that there is a need to further strengthen the safety net. We have put a line under $75,000 and said, basically, that that figure and anything below it has to be even further tested, further resourced and further strengthened to make sure that people who are at the margins, who are new in the workforce, who are in a vulnerable position, who are in lower wage jobs or who are teenagers—the sorts of people the Labor Party have tried to highlight and for whom they have tried to make out that suddenly everything has gone wrong—are further protected.

What we have seen as a result is that the teenage unemployment rate, which was 17.3 per cent in April 2007, is half what it was in July 1992. Labor’s great love for the teenage workforce, expressed by their concern about industrial relations practices, saw them drive teenage unemployment up to 34.5 per cent. Labor love to create victims. They love to create the sense that you cannot have a point of trust between employers and employees. Whereas the government believe that most people are going to do the right thing on most occasions, but we are now strengthening the laws which underpin that those who do the wrong thing will face the penalty for it.

That is the point of difference between the Liberal and National parties and the Labor Party. Labor believe that most people cannot be trusted and that you need to create a legislative environment where people are restricted in their conduct and control—in other words, big unions are involved in the discussion. Whereas we on this side believe that you need a legislative environment which says that most people can be trusted and that those who do the wrong thing will be penalised by law, and that is what we are doing today. We are further strengthening along those philosophical lines. We actually believe that those who want to collectively bargain can do that, and should be able to do that. But we do not want to see a circumstance, which Labor want to introduce after the election, where if there is just one member of a union in a workplace everybody in that workplace will be subject to union intervention. That sort of lack of trust and lack of maturity shows that, because of their strong affiliation and the purchase that has been made of them and their opinions by the union movement through their affiliation fees and through the way in which the Peter principle operates, whereby incompetent union officials get selected and appointed to federal parliament, members opposite have that sort of principle guiding their conduct. Labor are showing that they have to return on their preselection in this place. With 26 of 30 along the front bench being former union officials, my point is proved.

What really disturbs me is that I cannot find where any of them have actually been on the tools. I cannot find any having been union officials who have started by actually hammering in a nail or drilling a hole or weaving a fabric, or doing anything that involves the trade that the union they are a member of represents. I cannot find any of them actually having been workers; they have simply been officials. Nothing drives people in this country more crazy than the idea of being forced to have the unions in their lives.

A few weeks ago, Rod Cameron, the Labor Party’s pollster of choice, said that he does not know why Labor cannot get over the idea of personal agreements—not individual contracts. These civil law contracts that the Labor Party are all about are so draconian and unfair, compared to the guarantees delivered under Australian workplace agreements. Rod Cameron cannot understand why Labor cannot get over it. He said quite plainly—and he is right—‘People do not want the unions back in their lives.’ But that is what the Labor Party will represent if their agenda gets up after the next election. I welcome this bill because it further strengthens the government’s ambition for people to earn more, not to go backwards. I commend this bill to the House.