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Prime Minister says there is no need for a Senate inquiry into proposed industrial relations legislation.

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Tuesday 16 August 2005

Prime Minister says there is no need for a Senate inquiry into proposed industrial relations legislation


MARK COLVIN: The Federal Government's other major policy push, the overhaul of Australia's industrial relations system, is also still proving troublesome. 


A convoy of truckies rolled into Canberra today to express their anger at the planned changes, and there are some in Coalition ranks who have niggling concerns as well. 


And while Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews is backing a Senate inquiry, the Prime Minister doesn't seem to be convinced. 


From Canberra, Kim Landers reports. 


(sound of truck horns) 


KIM LANDERS: With horns blowing, a trucking convoy circled Parliament House today as drivers protested against the Federal Government's industrial relations changes. 


It's part of a well organised union campaign to maintain pressure on the Government as it drafts the complex overhaul of the laws. 


But the pressure's not just coming from the unions.  


Former meatworker turned Liberal backbencher Alby Schultz is searching for answers on whether holidays and lunch breaks will be protected. 


ALBY SCHULTZ: I've got some concerns.  


I mean, I'd hate to think that the things that I grew up with as a working class individual were under attack. I don't think they will be. I think what the Prime Minister said is right. But I'm going to find out. 


KIM LANDERS: His is not the only worry in Coalition ranks. 


In the party room this morning one unidentified Coalition backbencher sought reassurance that the changes will not adversely affect single income families or people with disabilities. 


In Question Time, Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews obliged. 


KEVIN ANDREWS: It will continue to be unlawful, Mr Speaker, for dismissing a person taking temporary absences from work due to illness or disability. It will continue to be unlawful to dismiss a worker because of an absence from work because of their family responsibilities. 


KIM LANDERS: But the minister has also inadvertently provided Labor with another line of attack after his endorsement yesterday of a Senate inquiry into the workplace shake-up - an investigation the Prime Minister is lukewarm at best about. 


KIM BEAZLEY: Can the Prime Minister clear up this confusion and tell the House, will there or won't there be a Senate inquiry into the Government's extreme industrial relations change? 


JOHN HOWARD: There won't be a Senate inquiry into an extreme industrial relations proposal because there is no such proposal, Mr Speaker. 


And I want to make that perfectly clear.  


But the question of whether, the question of whether there will be a Senate inquiry into this or any other piece of legislation will of course be a matter for the Senate. 


I don't hold the view… I don't hold the view of my predecessors the Senate is unrepresentative swill, Mr Speaker. I hold the view that the Senate is the expression of the will of the Australian people. 


KIM LANDERS: But Queensland Liberal Senator George Brandis told the party room an inquiry was a "stupid idea", adding that it'd be a "feast" for the Labor Party and there was nothing in it for the Government. 


Kim Beazley told the Labor Caucus today the Government is confused about the presentation of its IR policy. 


But as Kevin Andrews points out, the Labor backed union campaign isn't without its glitches either. 


KEVIN ANDREWS: The President of the ACTU, Sharan Burrow, was filmed at an ACTU campaign meeting in which she is recorded on film as saying this - "I need a mum or a dad of someone who's been seriously injured or killed. That would be fantastic. That would be fantastic." 


Mr Speaker, that is an absolute disgrace. A disgrace. 


MARK COLVIN: Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews ending Kim Landers' report.