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Wednesday, 16 August 2017
Page: 5884


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (18:17): Can I indicate that this is not about documents. This is about, as the Fair Work Ombudsman says, 'the most complex cases'.

Senator Xenophon: How do you determine what a complex case is, though?

Senator CAMERON: The Fair Work Ombudsman makes that decision. Here are two examples: 7-Eleven and Baiada. That's another issue that we'll come to in relation to this bill, because this has been concentrating on the franchise approach, but Baiada wasn't franchised. 7-Eleven was franchised, but Baiada, Caltex and a number of the other high-profile cases of stealing of workers' money weren't simply in relation to franchising.

We say that the Fair Work Ombudsman powers that are there now are not diminished by this at all. The Fair Work Ombudsman will have the powers it has now, and it will have additional powers arising from this bill with the appropriate amendments.

Senator Xenophon: But why not more generally, though?

Senator CAMERON: You say, 'Why not more generally?' Because this has to be about complex cases. The Fair Work Ombudsman did not ask for more general powers. The Fair Work Ombudsman put this in the context of the most complex cases. It was really about unpaid wages. You've raised a widening of the issues. Labor, the opposition, is saying that we understand what you're raising and we are inclined to agree with you.

But there are things we are not prepared to accept. You see this minister in action every question time. You see this government in action. When they're in trouble, they immediately attack the trade union movement. That's what they do. As soon as their internal problems spill into the public arena, as soon as they have a problem of overreach, they come here every question time and run an argument against the trade union movement. So we have no confidence in this minister in that area. We have no confidence in this government.

What we are saying is that this bill was promoted to protect vulnerable workers, not to be another piece of their arsenal against the trade union movement. I put very clearly to you, Senator Xenophon: they have the ABCC now, they have the ROC—the Registered Organisations Commission—and they have the Fair Work Commission and the Fair Work Ombudsman with general powers. So there's a raft of legislation that targets the trade union movement unheard of in any other advanced economy in the world, yet here we have the minister at the last minute during the debate in committee raising the issue of the union movement and this bill dealing with issues from industrial action.

How many more pieces of legislation can those opposite put in against industrial action in this country? The union movement—workers—in this country are hamstrung by legislation predominantly introduced by this government against them, and that's why we have bargaining. It's so difficult. And we have the Reserve Bank governor saying: 'You have to do better. Get out there and bargain and get more wages so we can get the economy boosted.' All this government does is obsess with the trade union movement.

Senator Xenophon, I feel you're raising these issues in a good way. You have raised unfair dismissal, you raised bullying, and you have raised compensation, employment standards and discrimination. We can add them. But we are not prepared to accept another ideological attack from this government and another set of laws that limit the legitimate capacity of the trade union movement to bargain for its members and look after its members. This is the fundamental issue that's before us. You have raised legitimate issues and they can be dealt with. But the minister, in her last contribution, actually raised a wider attack on the trade union movement. So I would appeal to the crossbench to understand what this minister is about and what this government is about. Do not give them another piece of artillery against the trade union movement in this country, because already we have amongst the most restricted trade union movements anywhere in the advanced world.