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Tuesday, 11 September 2012
Page: 10188


Dr LEIGH (Fraser) (14:51): My question is to the Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations, Financial Services and Superannuation. What is the government doing to make sure Australians have good jobs and a strong economy? Why is it important for the government to support jobs instead of going down a low-wage, low-skill track?

Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongMinister for Financial Services and Superannuation and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) (14:52): I thank the member for his question. The Labor Party is the political party for working Australians. We stand for jobs. We stand for good jobs, we stand for skilled jobs and we stand for fair jobs. Our record shows that we are a government that backs in good jobs. There have been 800,000 jobs created since Labor was elected to office. Unemployment even in these difficult global economic times is 5.1 per cent and our participation rates are still sixth in the world. But our record goes further than that. Our record shows that we are the only party that backs in skills. We are spending $15.6 billion over the next four years to help our young, with 375,000 extra places and 130,000 trainees and apprenticeships. We are the party of skilled jobs.

Our record shows that, not only do we stand for jobs and skilled jobs, we stand for fair jobs. Since the Fair Work Act came in there have been 22,000 enterprise agreements ratified—that is 2.62 million people who are covered by agreements which have been negotiated between employer and employee under Labor's legislation. In the last quarter wages have moved sensibly and reasonably by 3.7 per cent.

We see, also courtesy of Labor, that Australian workers can be free of anxiety from take-it-or-leave-it contracts of the past under the conservatives, free from the ability of employers to change rosters without any warning and free from unfair dismissal. We also know that you cannot have a good job in this country if you have the low road of insecure employment. When I look at the low road of insecure employment, obviously I see the 200,000 public servants in Queensland who face decimation—20,000 of their number. What did they ever do to be lied to by the coalition at the state level? I see 45,000 teachers in Victoria who had a lie told to them before the last election. When Premier Baillieu said to them: 'You'll be the best paid teachers in Australia,' they should have seen the footnote: 'Actually, only one in 10 of you will be.' What did the Victorian nurses ever do to upset the Victorian conservatives, such that they had to spend months and months negotiating a fair pay rise? What on earth did injured workers in New South Wales ever do to deserve Barry O'Farrell?

There are some in our business community who say Australia cannot compete. I refer you to Gina Rinehart's interview in the press. She said: 'How do we compete if Americans utilise illegal labour from Mexico? They say in Africa that Africans want to work and they are willing to work for less than $2 a day.' Let me make very clear on behalf of the government: we on this side are for good jobs and we will never become the $2 shop that the extremists in the ranks of the Liberals secretly want us to become.