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Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Page: 3275


Mr SYMON (Deakin) (14:50): My question is to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation. How does this budget protect jobs, promote growth and build both stronger and fairer workplaces and, Minister, what are the obstacles to this plan?

Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongMinister for Financial Services and Superannuation and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) (14:51): I thank the member for Deakin for his question. Last night's budget was about jobs. It was brought to you by a government that is committed to jobs, led by the Labor Party, who believe in creating and maintaining good jobs for people. There are a lot of positive choices which have been reflected in last night's budget. There is job-creating, productivity-building infrastructure, there is a hand-up for the unemployed, we make sure that there is a better education system to prepare our workforce of the future, we make sure that people with disability and carers finally get brought in from the cold and we are determined in this budget to help eradicate the scourge of asbestos and eradicate workplace bullying. That is the Labor way. That is the government way.

We choose smarter, stronger, fairer workplaces. But there is an obstacle to smarter, fairer workplaces and we all know what that one is: it is the Liberal plan to reintroduce unfair individual contracts. Last Thursday they let the cat out of the bag. They hoped to sneak it in just before the budget so no-one would notice it. At the centre of Liberal workplace relations nostalgia are unfair individual contracts. For instance, last Thursday they said, 'We are going to allow employees to trade off monetary conditions for non-money remuneration'—just like Work Choices. Yesterday the retailers were gleefully celebrating that they can knock off penalty rates—just like Work Choices. Today is another day and another employer group is breaking the discipline which the Liberals are desperate to keep on the employers not to let the cat out of the bag.

The Australian newspaper—and no doubt you will call them propagandists soon—reports an 'enthusiastic embrace' of Tony Abbott's proposed changes to extend hours and cut conditions. There you have it: the retailers, the hoteliers; you have got it in your own policy. It is just like the budget really—you get a choice to have a fair go all round at work or you can have a choice to cut people's working conditions to the bone.

We understand, and Australia understands, much as those opposite wish it was not so, that you cannot trust Liberals on workplace relations. Just ask the retailers. They know. Just ask the hoteliers. They know what you are on about. Just ask everyone who ever lost their job under Work Choices. In fact, you only have to read Battlelines to see that Tony Abbott says it might have been bad politics but it was very good economics. We did not trust you then and we do not trust you now.