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Monday, 14 August 2000
Page: 16249

Senator GIBBS (4:25 PM) —I rise to speak in continuation on the Workplace Relations Amendment (Unfair Dismissals) Bill 1998. Only 0.9 per cent of respondents to the workplace industrial relations survey nominated that they had not recruited employees due to unfair dismissal legislation. Less than one per cent had said that they were not recruiting staff because of current unfair dismissal laws. The reality is that unfair dismissal laws are now a clear and accepted part of our industrial relations landscape. Business, small and large and anything in between, has adjusted. They know how the laws work. They know how the laws most affect their particular enterprise. It does seem that there was some trepidation amongst business when the laws first came into place. That was fair enough—it was a substantial change to the way they had previously operated. But that is in the past. To suggest that removing or relaxing the unfair dismissal laws on small business would result in an influx of jobs is ridiculous.

I really have to wonder if people in this gov-ernment actually get out and talk to small bus-iness people. Business people in my area of Ipswich are doing it tough. They are doing it really tough. I can tell you now that the main concern of the overwhelming majority of any small business operators we talk to would not be unfair dismissals. They will not be staying up late at night worrying about how they are going to deal with unfair dismis-sal cases that come their way. They are worried about myriad other things—all forced on them by this government. The first would probably be the GST.

Senator Ian Campbell —You can roll it back.

Senator GIBBS —There are a lot of small business people out there saying to me, `I just love being a tax collector for this government. What am I getting out of it? Nothing but headaches.' Small businesses are just starting to complete and return their first set of business activity statements. They are just starting to pay the federal government the first GST instalments. Do you think they are really concerned about unfair dismissals?

Senator Sherry —They are struggling with the GST.

Senator GIBBS —Absolutely. On the other side of the ledger we have steadily increasing interest rates. Each interest rate rise means another worry for small business operators. They are two of the major concerns for small business operators: the GST and interest rates. Unfair dismissal laws are way down the list, I can assure you. Ultimately, the government's reintroduction of this bill is a clear demonstration that this government is tired and out of ideas. It has no forward looking plan for this nation. This legislation has been rejected before and we will reject it again.