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Thursday, 27 May 2004
Page: 29384

Mr RANDALL (2:32 PM) —My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Would the Treasurer outline to the House the benefits to Australians of policies directed at creating jobs? Are there still impediments to jobs growth? What are they and how could they be fixed?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —I thank the honourable member for Canning, and can I say what a pleasure it is to have him here in the House representing the seat of Canning—and may he stay in the House a very long period of time. I also thank him for the opportunity to talk about job creation. I think the House will be interested to know that, since this government was elected in 1996, there have been over 1.3 million new jobs created in Australia. The unemployment rate is at 5.6 per cent—as low as it has been in 23 years. Indeed, in the last six months alone, 164,000 new jobs have been created, 80 per cent of which have been full-time jobs.

The most important thing that a government can do for a family is create the economic conditions in which that family has the opportunity to find work. If a family does not have somebody who is in the work force bringing home an income, then it does not have the stability and the financial support that it needs. So it is our view that everything that can be done should be done to help job creation in this country—and that is not just the view of this government. I would like to refer the House to the OECD economic survey which quotes a survey done by D. Harding in 2002 which found—get a load of this:

Unfair dismissal laws in Australia contributed to the loss of about 77,000 jobs from businesses which used to employ staff and now no longer employ anyone.

The OECD survey also said:

Countries that have a decentralised bargaining system and more relaxed employment protection legislation are better equipped to innovate in industries characterised by multiple and rapidly evolving technologies.

What they are saying is that if you have a flexible workplace, ease of hiring and firing, you can innovate in those high value add areas.

Although unemployment is low by historical standards, the point is this: unemployment could go lower in Australia if the Australian Labor Party would get out of the way and pass this government's unfair dismissal law changes. They have now been rejected 40 times in the Australian Senate. And there is the evidence, endorsed by the OECD: 77,000 more Australians could get their foot onto the ladder of opportunity—they could get into the work force and start going up that ladder—if the Australian Labor Party would get out of the way and allow this government to reform unfair dismissal laws.

I must say that there are days when you read the press with a heavy heart and there are days when your heart leaps from within you as you read the morning press. I must say that one of those days was today, when I think the hearts of so many Australians leapt from within them by reading today's Australian:

Labor's workplace relations spokesman, Craig Emerson, has admitted that small businesses do not hire staff because of the ALP's union backed unfair dismissal—

Mr McGauran —The whistleblower!

Mr COSTELLO —The opposition whistleblower.

Mr McGauran —Put him in witness protection.

Mr COSTELLO —As the honourable member for Gippsland says—

Mr McMullan —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Past Speakers have upheld the point of order that allegations which have been rejected specifically by members, by way of personal explanation, are not proper to be repeated by members in the House. This is a matter that has been rejected by the member for Rankin in a personal explanation this morning, explicitly and totally, and—

Government members interjecting

Mr McMullan —Their interjections indicate that they are aware of the personal explanation and make the breach of standing orders more severe.

The SPEAKER —A point of order has been raised about a personal explanation made in my presence this morning by the member for Rankin, where the member for Rankin indicated that the press report of what he was alleged to have said the day before was inaccurate.

Mr COSTELLO —We certainly welcome the fact that there does seem to be some sense returning to the Australian Labor Party and in particular the member for Rankin.

Honourable members interjecting

Mr COSTELLO —Somebody interjects that he denies it. What, does he deny that there is some sense returning to the Australian Labor Party? We welcome the fact that it appears that some sense is returning to the Australian Labor Party. In particular, we welcome the recognition that the small businesses of Australia will become employment-averse if they are subject to the risk of litigation under unfair dismissal laws which have been found by the OECD to have destroyed jobs, or not to have allowed the creation of jobs, and which are restricting the small businesses of Australia in a way they should not be. On this side of the House, we support small business. While the Labor Party refuses to allow small business to be rescued from the shackles of those unfair dismissal laws, the Australian Labor Party will always stand condemned by the small business community of Australia.

We say that the member for Rankin is right. He was right when he spoke at that meeting last night, when he said:

That when he ran a small business he did think about what might happen if he had to dismiss someone.

That is a quote, and it is not denied.

Mr McMullan —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Treasurer is deliberately and explicitly reiterating matters to which I drew your attention previously and which have been refuted expressly—

The SPEAKER —I was listening closely to the Treasurer's comments, because of the ruling I had given. Nothing that he had said prior to the member for Fraser's point of order reflected uncharitably on the member for Rankin.

Mr COSTELLO —The member for Rankin was quoted in the Australian—a quote which is not denied—as saying that he did think about what might happen if he had to dismiss somebody, as hundreds of thousands of small businesses do at the moment. Small business and their employment prospects in this country are too important to the future of Australians for the union backed members of the Australian Labor Party to insist on union rights and union power, at the expense of small business. It is about time that the union bosses that control the Australian Labor Party were told to get back into their box, that they will not be listened to, that the businesses of Australia are too important, that the jobs of Australians are too important, that those young people who want to get on the ladder of opportunity should have the chance to work, that the Australian Labor Party will not for the 41st time block these unfair dismissal laws, that we will get on with sensible industrial relations reform, that small business will get a go and that more jobs will be created in Australia.

Dr Emerson —Mr Speaker, I seek leave to table a copy of the personal explanation that I made at 9 o'clock this morning and which was delivered to the minister's office.

Leave granted.