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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Page: 12532

Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (13:53): I appreciate the opportunity, in this short period over the next seven minutes before question time begins, to speak on the Fair Entitlements Guarantee Bill 2012. Clearly, this debate is fairly wide-ranging given some of the comments that have been made. I have just heard the member for Canberra talk about what happened in 1996. I think I should remind Canberrans of what happens when a house is left in disorder, when a government has led the country to live beyond its means and racked up $96 billion in debt. Someone needs to then come in and clean up the mess and I think it is not right for the team that left the mess to then blame the next team that comes in for the cleaning up of the mess. Whilst members from Queensland might be complaining about the things that take place in Queensland under the new government, the trouble is that when the last Queensland government left the place stayed in a mess with huge amounts of debt and someone needed to make the hard decisions.

The hard decisions had not been made for a long time. Largesse in government spending had taken place over many years in Queensland and someone needed to come in and do something about it. The reality is that the country now faces $257 billion of debt, thanks to those opposite. They have taken us from a net asset position of some $70 billion and now we are $257 billion in the red. Someone needs to clean up the mess.

We welcome the opportunity to speak about the Fair Entitlements Guarantee Bill 2012. This is an evolution from the previous legislation that applied, the General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme. The current Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Tony Abbott, who was the workplace relations minister in 2001, established that scheme. It was to protect the employee entitlements of more than 90 per cent of workers who lose their entitlements when their company becomes insolvent.

Obviously there are circumstances in this country where certain companies might run into difficulties. A lot of companies in this country now face difficulties. There are a lot of businesses out there whose confidence has been sapped by this current government and now they are facing all sorts of problems. Every day in question time we raise the plight of these companies, and the government dismisses us and dismisses the interests of these businesses. It is not right. Thanks to the lack of confidence that this government has created across so many states, even in Western Australia now, we need to look at this Fair Entitlements Guarantee Bill. That is the problem that this country faces. Hopefully, after the next election there will be a greater degree of confidence and this country will start being able to move forward again.

The coalition will move an amendment to this bill to include a cap on the redundancy payment at 13 weeks. That is the right and appropriate thing to do, given that that is in line with Labor's very own Fair Work Act. The coalition was always very careful with the GEERS, the General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme, to ensure that the scheme kept in line with the community standard. The amendment that we propose would ensure that the standard—the high bar—of Labor's own Fair Work Act is maintained. We acknowledge the importance of looking after workers and making sure that, in circumstances in which businesses go under, something is done about entitlements and people are looked after. The eligibility requirements for these entitlements are that the person's employment has ended, the end of the employment is linked to the insolvency of the employer, the employer is in liquidation or bankruptcy, and the person has unpaid employment entitlements that cannot be obtained from another source.

We acknowledge that this needs to take place. This was the side that actually initiated this action when it needed to be done. The person that initiated it was the Leader of the Opposition, looking after people that needed to be looked after when the pressure was on, back in 2001. In this place, we are used to hearing how we are responsible for all the dramas in this country—that, when there is someone to blame, it is always us. But, back in 1996, when one side left this country in disorder, someone needed to clean up the mess. Now we face exactly the same circumstances, where one side is leaving this country in disorder—$257 billion of gross debt—and someone needs to come in and fix it up. I hope that, when the time comes, not only the rest of the country but Canberrans as well will remember that, when someone takes responsibility, this country can be brought back into order.

I appreciate the opportunity today to make comments on this bill. I completely endorse the amendment that will be brought forward to include a cap on the redundancy payment at 13 weeks. That will be in line with the government's own Fair Work legislation that they always stand by so completely. In any case, I look forward to the government considering what needs to be done and making sure that our amendment is fully accepted, because that is the best way to progress this matter.

Debate interrupted.