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Thursday, 1 March 2012
Page: 2523

Workplace Relations


Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (14:41): My question is to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation. Will the minister explain what the government is doing to help make Australian workplaces the best and safest in the world?


Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongMinister for Financial Services and Superannuation and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) (14:42): I would like to thank the member for Blair for his question and I can assure him that the government is indeed getting things done to improve our workplaces. There are some well-known facts about how we are improving our workplaces. We are lifting superannuation from nine to 12 per cent, and in fact there will be 43,500 people in the member for Blair's own electorate who will have better retirement savings courtesy of the people on this side of the House. Not only are we doing that; we are going to lower the corporate tax rate to 29 per cent; we have got the Fair Work Act, which puts fairness back into Australian workplaces; we have got the NBN, which is going to improve productivity; and we have got more people than ever working in Australia's history.

What is lesser known in terms of our attempts to improve the workplace is what we are actually doing to make workplaces safer. Members of the House would probably know that nearly 300 people are killed each year in Australian workplaces, over 2,000 die from industrial related diseases and 640,000 Australians suffer workplace injury or illness. This costs Australia $60 billion. But this government is determined to improve one workplace in particular at the moment, and that is Australia's roads.

Let us never forget in this place that, even as we and our families drive on the roads to go home or to go on holiday, every time a truck passes it is a workplace. And let us not forget in this place that 277 people last year were killed in truck related collisions and accidents. Let us not forget in this place that 1,000 people get seriously injured each year in truck related accidents. This is a terrible toll. We were joined briefly in the gallery before by Suzanne de Beer and Lystra Tagliaferri. These two ladies happen to be widows. Their husbands were killed in a truck related collision in Western Australia at the end of 2010. Indeed, what we want to do is make sure that the roads of Australia are not generating more widows. That is why this side of the House is putting up safe rates legislation, because we believe in safe roads. We understand the cost of $2.7 billion due to not having proper, safe rates in Australia. That is actually only the second-most important issue. What is most important is the fact that some people go to work and do not come home at the end of their shift that night. We know this is because of speeding. We know it is because of the pressure put on drivers to meet their deadlines. The safe rates bill will create safe roads. We can have the safest roads in the world. More than 30 years ago this nation introduced seatbelts, and we have seen the improvement that made. This House should unite on making sure that we do something to decrease the road toll caused by trucks. Perhaps for once I could ask those opposite—and I believe they are sincere about this issue—to let's do something that will not only help those widows but also ensure that others do not become widows as well; let's make sure all our families— (Time expired)

The SPEAKER: The minister's microphone has been turned off because he no longer has the call, because his time had expired.

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER: I would actually like to see the time for answers set at 2½ minutes! But anyway.