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Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Page: 1058


Senator MARSHALL (Victoria) (18:46): But the reality is, whether it is one clause, 10 clauses or 50 clauses, the time process for negotiation, consultation, lodgement and assessment is fixed. It is going to take that long anyway.

Again, I do find it somewhat surprising and, in fact, somewhat alarming that the department, first of all, cannot tell us how many agreements there are in the industry. They have done a sample to determine that they believe that 16 per cent are code compliant, so 84 per cent are not code compliant. If we are talking about tens of thousands of agreements, we are potentially talking about tens of thousands of agreements that are not code compliant.

I do not really want to get back into the argument about whether they should have had code compliant agreements. Quite frankly, the legislation had been defeated twice. I think it was quite reasonable for a lot of people to assume that they did not need to be that code compliant because the parliament had actually determined this issue on two occasions. In any case, the 2016 code is different from the 2014 code and we have had that evidence; it has been presented to the committee and in the reports.

Again, I would like to know what the estimation is. If I just do the rough calculation, I think the commission is probably trying to process an agreement every four minutes. That is assuming that the potentially tens of thousands of agreements are all agreed immediately. If you accept that, even with the whole nine months, you cannot get through it. You cannot do it; it is a physical impossibility. The point I am trying to find out is: does this amendment actually enable people who might want to become code compliant, even if they wanted to and even if they did everything in their best endeavours with their workforce, to achieve that goal? That is my question.

I suggested earlier that we would be here all night and I know we will not be, because you came down to listen to my second reading speech and I could see in your eyes that I got you halfway to the line. I know you are on board and you are convinced with the strength of my argument and I know you are listening very intently now.

You have a department that has the job of collecting these statistics. Again, I find it incredibly frustrating that we just seem to have arbitrary numbers pulled out like 'two years', which was just written on a piece of paper by the Prime Minister and slid across the table to Senator Hinch. And we know that was not advice that the department provided because they gave that evidence. Now we have a nine-month transition period. We know that was not the advice of the department because they gave us that evidence. Clearly, it is now pretty obvious to everybody that they would not have given that advice because, for a start, they do not even know how many agreements are in the industry—and they should. They believe, however many it is, that 16 per cent may be code compliant so 84 per cent are not but they do not actually know what that figure is. They certainly have not sought any advice from the Fair Work Commission about their ability to process such a number of agreements. In fact, they seem to have provided no advice to the government.

So we are actually making policy that can have a significantly detrimental effect on industry and companies just based on an arbitrary number of nine months. Maybe I am missing something but I have to say I find that extraordinary. I thought that in this place, and certainly as part of the committee process, we tested how rigorous the policymaking process was in what we are debating and what is in front of us. It appears there was no policy making here. It was simply a number pulled out of thin air an applied with no testing against reality and no testing against capacity. I find that extraordinary. I know in the next couple of hours you will, ultimately, agree with me. You will withdraw the legislation and we will be able to move on. It will not be a late night. I can see many on your side agree with me already.