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Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Page: 1076


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (20:13): This is an opportunity for One Nation, for Senator Hinch and for Senator Xenophon to actually do in here what you preach outside, because workers will not be in a position to protect their jobs from workers from overseas on 457 visas and other visas. Workers will not be in that position in the case of a redundancy. Despite what the minister says, the code says something different. If there was even one reason why we should reject this it is the total confusion of the minister and the government about what is in the code and what is out of the code. And who is going to be the arbitrator on this? The worst public servant this country has ever seen, Nigel Hadgkiss. What happens when clauses go to the ABCC? They will lie there for months, for who knows how long?

One Nation does lots of preaching about Australian jobs, does lots of big talk about Australian jobs, lots of big talk about protecting Australian workers, lots of big talk about what they are going to do with apprentices. Now, Senator Hanson, is your opportunity to put the big talk into action. Stop saying one thing out there for political purposes and then when you come in here cuddle up with the Liberal Party and the National Party—not so much the National Party; we know you want to destroy them. Do not cuddle up with the Liberal Party and accept this code which denies workers rights that are rights that have been achieved and are acceptable everywhere else in the country, rights that have been achieved and are acceptable everywhere else in modern economies around the world. Why would One Nation stop workers negotiating about not being made redundant while foreign workers—who are there to be top-up workers—are on the job? Why would you do that? It is absolutely ridiculous. It just blows away your rhetoric about job protection and looking after Australian workers. It you support this bill it shows that you are a fraud. If you do not want to be a fraud, do not support it. If you want to be a fraud, support this bill. Then everyone will know that all your rhetoric stands for absolutely nothing and that you are committing fraud against the Australian public with your arguments for Australian jobs and that you are committing fraud against the Australian public with your arguments about apprenticeships. Do not be a fraud. Stand up in here for what you say out there and stop doing dirty deals with the coalition that mean workers rights will be taken away from them, that their wages will diminished and that their families will suffer. That is exactly what will happen if you support this bill.

I say the same to Senator Hinch. You cannot just jump from one position to another and leave workers exposed to bad legislation. This legislation is not understood even by the minister. This legislation will create chaos in the building and construction industry. This legislation means that thousands of agreements will be up for renegotiation. This legislation says that if you negotiate a ratio of apprentices you will not be AB code compliant—

Senator Hinch interjecting

Senator CAMERON: And rather than shout at me over the chamber, Senator Hinch, maybe you should go back and actually look at the Hansard to see what this minister has said tonight. This minister is totally incompetent, not only in relation to the bill and the clauses in the bill—she cannot explain them—but as the Minister for Employment she has no idea how the act works. She has no idea how bargaining takes place. She thinks there is going to be this magical situation where because the boss puts some pressure on workers they will just give in. There are going to be masses of companies that are not code compliant.

I cannot understand Senator Xenophon, who portrays himself as the hero of the working class. But when he gets an opportunity to actually do something practical about protecting workers from this mob across the chamber, who hate workers bargaining collectively, who want simply to look after the big end of town and the people who put money into their election campaigns and to hide where the money is coming from, Senator Xenophon really needs to have a look at what he is committing to. He is getting all uptight about what somebody is saying about him out in the public arena. This bill will diminish health and safety in the building and construction industry. This bill will ensure that there is chaos in the industry. This bill will mean that companies that are competitive will end up losing a bid—even though their bid is the best bid on cost, quality and delivery—to one of this mob's mates who cannot be as efficient but who have put money into the pockets of the Liberal Party for their elections.

Senator Hinch, Senator Hanson and Senator Xenophon, I do not believe you understand what you are going to do tonight, because if you did understand it you would not do it. The minister does not even understand the bill, with all the support she has. What you should think about is not the deals you can do, not who can do the dirtiest deal, not who can get the front page of The Australian, but about what is in the interest of workers in this country. This is not a contest amongst the minor parties for the best publicity and the headline in The Australian. Senator Hinch, let me tell you: the first chance The Australian has of doing you over if you ever stand up for workers in this place, it will do you over.

Senator Hinch: They did last December.

Senator CAMERON: So do not think, because they gave you a touch-up when you did the right thing and then you do a triple somersault with pike and you are back here, that The Australian will think much of you. They will not, because I can tell you: not many people in here think much of you and what you have done. This mob over here think you are an easy touch. We think you cannot be trusted. The Australian construction industry do not know what to think of you, and Senator Xenophon is not much better. He should know better. He is more experienced. So I will give you some leeway, Senator Hinch: you just are not experienced. You are not used to bargaining. You are not used to negotiating. You are not used to getting done over. This is not you sitting with a big silver mike in front of you, pontificating about, 'Shame, shame, shame!' This is real life. This is not a plaything.

So what you need to do is think carefully about playing with workers' wages and conditions and workers' rights. The Housing Industry Association yesterday made it clear that the tactic that will be employed against building and construction workers is to force them into the commission and argue that they should lose their enterprise agreement and go back on the award rate, with hundreds and hundreds of dollars being lost by workers in the building and construction industry. This is not about efficiency. This is not about illegal activity. This is simply about this mob here having a hatred for collective bargaining in this country. One Nation, the Nick Xenophon Team and you, Senator Hinch, should not fall for this con job of a bill, which is hopeless in terms of delivering for working people. So, Senator Hinch, think again.

The TEMPORARY CHAIR ( Senator Whish-Wilson ): Senator Cameron, could I just remind you to address your comments through the chair.

Senator CAMERON: Sorry. I apologise, Chair. Through the chair, Senator Hinch, have a think about this. Senator Hanson, have a think about this. Senator Xenophon, have a think about this. You cannot portray yourselves as heroes of the workforce and ordinary working families when you come here and deliberately introduce a code that restricts workers' rights to bargain.

Collective bargaining is the one way workers get decent wages and conditions, and building industry workers are not like white-collar workers—middle managers, to whom the human resource manager can walk in and simply say, 'We've restructured, and you're gone.' That is where we are heading with this. What we need is a bit of understanding, a bit of strength, a bit of courage of your commitments and a bit of delivery on your rhetoric. Come in here, protect Australian jobs, protect Australian apprenticeships, protect collective bargaining and protect the right of workers to have a union representing them, because this is nothing more than an attack on the Australian workforce, and you are facilitating it. Senator Xenophon, Senator Hinch and Senator Hanson are facilitating this debilitating bill, which will mean lower wages, lower conditions and less money in the community for small businesses.

Senator Hanson, if this went around and you still had your fish and chip shop and you were working near a building site, there would not be much fish and chips getting bought, because the workers would not have the money to buy the fish and chips. I have heard you pontificating about fish and chip shops in the past. Think about it: if building workers do not have the money to get takeaway fish and chips, your business is gone. Workers will be put on the award wage on this. The employers foreshadowed it yesterday. This is a terrible bill, this is a terrible code, and that is why we are saying nothing in the code should take away from the rights that workers enjoy under the general act. That is what we are saying. We are protecting workers' rights; you are going to take them away. You are going to allow employers to sack Australian workers and keep on workers from overseas on 457 and other arrangements. Have a look at clause 11(3)(h). When you sign that off, you are signing away the rights of working people in this country to protect their permanent construction jobs against 457 visa holders.

I would like to hear how you intend to justify this to the people to whom you portray yourself as the great defender of workers' jobs. The three parties have allowed themselves to be conned by the coalition. You have demonstrated so far that you do not understand these issues of importance to working people. Senator Roberts has continually run antiworker rhetoric. How One Nation can ever portray itself as a defender of workers and of Australian jobs has got me beat, and Senator Xenophon should know better. He just has given in. (Time expired)