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Monday, 14 September 2009
Page: 9393

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Warringah is suspended under standing order 94 for 24 hours.

The member for Warringah then left the chamber.

Ms GILLARD —I do understand the embarrassment and sensitivity of those opposite about this issue. What I was verifying was that in November last year the Leader of the Opposition frequently said that Work Choices was dead. On 26 November he went so far as to say:

The Coalition has been advised by industry that the Government’s changes in the Fair Work Bill to provide individual flexibility in Awards and Agreements are sufficient.

There was no question then about the reintroduction of individual statutory employment agreements. No, he was trying to convince people that Work Choices was dead. He went on to say this on a number of occasions—on 22 May, and on 19 May, a few days earlier, he had a debate with Alan Jones about whether it was him or the former Leader of the Opposition, Brendan Nelson, who first said that Work Choices was dead. But he verified that Work Choices was dead according to the Liberal Party.

But then something very important happened on the weekend. Despite all of the attempts by the Leader of the Opposition to pull the wool over people’s eyes, on Saturday he verified what we had always really known: Work Choices remains the position of the Liberal Party and they want to reintroduce individual statutory employment agreements, AWAs, with all of the rip-offs that they imply. The Leader of the Opposition was out on Saturday verifying that that was the position of the Liberal Party. He may have had to do this because others positioning for the leadership had got there first. I refer in this regard to the member for Warringah, who has just been excluded from the House, who said on the 7.30 Report on 27 July that statutory individual employment agreements were an important reform. He went on to say, ‘We are never going to bring down the curtain on workplace reform.’ The Leader of the Opposition may have been dragged there by others in the Liberal Party, but he has verified that Liberal Party policy is Work Choices, AWAs and all of the rip-offs that that means. If there was any doubt at all, it was verified today by Senator Minchin, who said on News Radio, ‘We are obviously in the business of formulating a new policy,’ and he referred to the 2007 election campaign as just a scare campaign—as if the Australian people are stupid and that, in repudiating Work Choices, they did the wrong thing.

If there was any doubt, we could go to that bellwether, that very honest and frank man in the Liberal Party, the member for O’Connor, who dispensed with all the subterfuge of the Leader of the Opposition and said very, very frankly today:

I am totally supportive of that proposal.

The proposal being individual contracts.

I was never comfortable with people coming out without partyroom endorsement at the time and saying WorkChoices was dead … The only problem with Work Choices was its name.

That is not all that has been revealed about Work Choices today. It is not just the member for O’Connor from the back bench but also the shadow minister for workplace relations from the front bench. He was on Sky News today, and he was being asked about individual statutory employment agreements and what the policy of the Liberal Party is. In the middle of a global recession, when Australian working families are worried about jobs, he was asked about redundancy pay. He was asked by Kieran Gilbert, ‘Do you say you can’t say whether you would give a guarantee for something like redundancy pay?’ The shadow minister, on behalf of the Liberal Party, was asked for a guarantee about redundancy pay in the middle of a global recession. The shadow minister answered in these terms:

Well, we are saying we are not ruling things in and ruling things out at this stage. I mean, I cannot give a guarantee on any of these matters.

That was the shadow minister today, spelling out the position of the Liberal party. What this clearly means is Work Choices is back as Liberal Party policy. The rip-offs are back as part of Liberal Party policy. The rip-off that really matters to workers in the middle of a global recession is that they cannot rely on getting their redundancy pay. According to the shadow minister, there are no guarantees of that. The rip-off of their redundancy pay is back. Those rip-offs happened each and every day under the Liberal Party when it was in government, and now they have been endorsed by the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition is so out of touch with the needs of Australian families that he thinks the right policy in the middle of a global recession is to have laws where people’s basic pay and conditions, like redundancy, can be ripped-off. He is so out-of-touch with the needs of working Australians that he has endorsed the rip-offs. He has endorsed Work Choices. He has endorsed the rip-offs of redundancy pay. He told us the truth on the weekend, and that has been added to by his shadow minister today.