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Thursday, 27 May 2004
Page: 29388

Mr HAASE (2:53 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Small Business and Tourism. Would the minister inform the House how imposts such as Labor's unfair dismissal laws are destroying jobs? Is the minister aware of any recent criticism of the unfair dismissal laws from a surprising source?

Mr HOCKEY (Minister for Small Business and Tourism) —I thank the honourable member for Kalgoorlie for his very well-informed question. It is quite true that the Labor Party's unfair dismissal laws have had a negative impact on Australian small business. In fact, according to COSBOA, they cost small business in excess of 50,000 jobs, and that is just from the application of the Labor Party's unfair dismissal laws at a federal level. When I went through the Hansards in search of the reasons why the Labor Party is opposing our changes, which propose to exclude the application of unfair dismissal laws to small business, I came across the words of the member for Rankin, who said:


being the government—

continues to bang on about unfair dismissal laws costing jobs. It does that despite having been told ... that its claim is spurious and wrong.

As the Treasurer told the House, we looked at the paper this morning, and it said:

At a closed meeting of more than 20 members of the Council of Small Business Association in Canberra on Tuesday night, Dr Emerson presented Labor's policy and said he understood the problems business had with the unfair dismissal laws.

It goes on to say:

According to several people at the meeting, Dr Emerson then said he had not employed extra staff for his small business because of fears about the unfair dismissal laws.

So I thought, `Wow, this is a significant step forward—the spokesman for the Labor Party on workplace relations conceding that even he did not employ someone because of the unfair dismissal laws.'

The SPEAKER —I must point out that the member for Rankin has already indicated this morning, by way of personal explanation, that that did not happen.

Mr HOCKEY —I am coming to that, Mr Speaker. I want to deal with a statement made this morning. This morning the member for Rankin addressed the House, and I ask my colleagues to understand the words carefully, because the member for Rankin did not deny in his words that he said that on Tuesday night. He said:

Having been told last night by a representative of COSBOA that I made no such statement at the meeting, the journalist persisted with the story.

So, in fact, the member for Rankin has not in this place yet denied that he uttered the words which are reported in the Australian today. He has not denied it in this place. He went around it, saying that COSBOA denied it, and we have no evidence that COSBOA have denied that.

Dr Emerson —You are going to get some shortly.

Mr HOCKEY —We would be intrigued to get it. We will be waiting for it to come shortly. We are systematically asking people who attended the meeting exactly what was said. As soon as we can get the reports that are out at the moment on further comments made by individuals at those meetings we will bring them to the attention of the House. We want the member for Rankin to deny that he said those words in this place, because as far as we are concerned he is playing games. He said the words. The allegations were backed up by a number of people in today's Australian that he said the words that he did not employ an individual in his business because of the unfair dismissal laws. He came in with a cute personal explanation, when everyone who was at the dinner who was paying attention to his words knows that the member for Rankin uttered the words that he did not employ someone because of the unfair dismissal laws.

But what we do know about the Labor Party is this: the Labor Party have a history of going behind closed doors and saying one thing to people and then coming into the parliament and going public and saying something entirely different. That is the way they operate. They are hypocrites. They operate one way behind closed doors to business and they operate another way when they are dealing with the Australian public.