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Thursday, 16 May 2013
Page: 3514

Workplace Relations


Mr MURPHY (Reid) (14:51): My question is to the Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. How do the government's workplace policies make Australian workplaces stronger, smarter and fairer? What other plans are there, and why is it important to be transparent about those plans?


Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongMinister for Financial Services and Superannuation and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) (14:52): I thank the member for Reid for his question; I know his interest in fair workplaces.

The budget we heard on Tuesday night outlined our plans for fairer workplaces. We are investing in job-creating, productivity-building workplaces. We are making sure that we train our workforce of the future. We are making sure that we give a hand up for unemployed people to help them back into work. We are making sure that disabled people get a fair go all-round. We are tackling the scourge of asbestos and the scourge of workplace bullying.

Labor has plans—fair plans—for workplaces in Australia. We have a smarter, stronger, fairer approach to Australian workplaces, but there is a clear choice as the member for Reid alluded to in his question, because there is an alternative plan for Australia's workplaces. We saw the cat out of the bag last Thursday when the opposition proposed the sly, sneaky and stealthy reintroduction of unfair individual contracts. And on Monday we heard the retailers rub their hands in glee: if the Liberals get in, the good times roll on for Work Choices. Then, on Tuesday the hoteliers had a crack. They said they would pop their champagne corks; they said, 'Fantastic, we can tackle penalty rates'.

Mr Pyne: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. To be relevant, the minister really needs to point out that the individual flexibility arrangements were introduced by the Prime Minister, not by the Leader of the Opposition.

The SPEAKER: The Manager of Opposition business is abusing points of order. I have warned him several times today, and I am going to request that he leave the chamber under 94(a).

The member for Sturt then left the chamber.

Mr SHORTEN: As I said: on Monday, the retailers were rubbing their hands; on Tuesday, the hoteliers were saying to pop the champagne corks—'Work Choices, we can get the individual contract in the back way'—but today the Liberal party must have said, 'Oh my goodness,' when they read the Australian,because who is out there belling the wish list for the Liberal industrial relations? You got it, the Reithmeister is back! What he says is, 'Tony Abbott, if you want to be a long-term leader of the Liberal Party,' Peter Reith gave an ultimatum to the Liberal Party of today, he said, 'You'd better go hard on the workers, you'd better go hard on the employees'. He said, 'Unfair individual contracts: let's bring them back'. He said, 'Let's go after parental leave'. The Chief Opposition Whip must have been channelling his inner Reith today! But he goes further: he says, 'Let's have crack at unfair dismissal protection'. They must love Peter Reith on the opposition side. They must say, 'Thank you for Peter Reith'.

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In order for the minister to be directly relevant, he must not just be tangentially relevant to the question, he must be directly relevant to it, and Peter Reith certainly is not relevant to the question. Therefore, he should be asked to sit down or answer the question directly.

The SPEAKER: The minister has the call and will refer to the question before the chair.

Mr SHORTEN: The member for Mackellar got the political airbrush and there goes Peter Reith. The problem is, I borrowed a copy of Battlelines—did not buy it. Tony Abbott would like you to buy his book and the opposition leader says, 'Reith, in fact, acted as a political elder brother to many of his colleagues'. He was a big loss! He is now threatening the opposition leader. 'Do as I say, do what the extreme Right of the Liberal Party wants: bring back Work Choices or else. We can't have this choice in Australia'.

We do not trust the Liberals on workplace relations. The Australian people have a memory longer than the member for Mackellar has.