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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31554

Mr BARRESI (4:05 PM) —In rising to speak to the MPI, I follow the member for Hasluck, who says that she cringes and feels embarrassed by the minister when he gets up and speaks. He is about the only frontbencher who has spoken on the MPI, and he is a minister.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —If the member for Lingiari persists in making comments while walking out of the House, he will be put out of the House.

Mr BARRESI —The minister talked about industrial relations, the issues that are confronting the Australian work force and the juxtaposition of our policies to those of the ALP. I thought the member for Rankin was doing a job interview, with your backbench as your selection panel. You spoke about every other policy—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Deakin will address his comments through the chair.

Mr BARRESI —Mr Deputy Speaker Causley, through you, apart from I think 30 seconds at the beginning, the member for Rankin spoke about every other policy area except his own. And this is supposed to be a matter of public importance. Why has the parliament wasted the last half hour today talking about a matter of public importance that was put up by the member for Rankin when he did not even have the courtesy to address the issues? He spoke about everything else—tax, health, promises and the whole lot—but not industrial relations. I think the member for Rankin actually read out the MPI and that was his contribution to the industrial relations debate today.

It was a job interview. He does not want the job. He does not want the industrial relations portfolio. He does not understand industrial relations. The best way I can describe it is that it is similar to when a tomcat vacates the alley. When the tomcat is away, the domestic moggy comes in to try and flex its muscles. The domestic moggy came in today, just for the one day, to rule the patch. Of course, he was not up to it. As I said, he was speaking on every other issue bar his own. I would say to the member for Rankin that, as far as this MPI goes, he is probably a far better representative of the parliamentary rugby team than he is of his own MPI and his own portfolio. At least the member for Hasluck had the courtesy to speak on the MPI today and what it is all about.

No wonder they are embarrassed this week and want to raise the issues of taxes and broken promises et cetera. I think it was yesterday or the day before that the ALP conducted one of the greatest backflips of all time. After 25 months of giving the government a hard time and putting up petitions in the community about the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, what do we have? We have the member for Rankin coming in here and preaching to us about broken promises when, out there, there are petitions and people who have signed those petitions who have been told by the ALP, `We'll be there supporting you on taxes.'

Ms Roxon —So this is about industrial relations?

Mr BARRESI —I will get on to industrial relations. The member for Rankin certainly did not. I am glad that at least the minister did. I would say to the member for Gellibrand that perhaps you should put your hand up as a shadow spokesperson for industrial relations. I am sure that you would do a far better job.

Those opposite have been exposed today. They do not want to talk about industrial relations. They know that, the more they talk about industrial relations and ALP IR policies, the more the community understands what the ALP has in store for them after the next election. The more they talk about it, the more they will be exposed for turning this country back to a pre-1996 industrial relations world. The business community will be exposed to ALP policies and, if the member for Rankin will not do it, certainly we will. Every member on this side is certainly tuned in to what the ALP plans to do in the area of industrial relations. Every business will also be tuned in to it over the next few months. I say to the small business community in the electorate of Deakin and elsewhere around Australia: watch out, because what the alternative government has in place is going to destroy your business.

We have heard it said many times in this place that the ALP is bad for the nation, bad for business and bad for jobs. It is not just a cliche. Have a look at the policies. You do not have to go too far to look at them. You need to go only as far back as the ALP national conference, where this member—the member for Rankin—stood up and moved many of the motions which will destroy this country. In fact, he gloated at that ALP national conference when he proclaimed quite clearly that the `Labor Party and the unions are in partnership once again'. In fact, I would say that it is certainly not a partnership situation but rather a master-servant situation, with the union movement calling the shots.

The ALP policy and this MPI are not about equality or even-handedness. This MPI is about one thing: helping out ALP mates in the union movement. The objection to the member for Rankin's and the opposition's claim that we have misled working Australians is that Labor wants to give union bosses a foot back into Australian workplaces. Let us have a look at the platform. Back in January, it said:

A law which requires an employer of a non-unionised work force to bargain with a union on wages and employment conditions above award levels would give trade union officials a dominant agenda-setting role in bargaining across the economy.

This is exactly what those opposite are on about. The ALP platform is about creating a law which would provide a dominant agenda-setting role in bargaining across the economy for the union movement. Why should the union movement have a dominant bargaining role across the economy? They certainly should have a role, but when you see the decline in union membership and the fact that people are turning away from the union movement in droves, this policy is simply about giving unions a legislative leg-up by dealing them back into the bargaining process.

I say to the member for Rankin and members on the other side: union membership in the work force is now 23 per cent. In the private sector it is now 17 per cent. That is certainly a far cry from the halcyon days of the sixties and seventies. Union membership of the ALP caucus, however, is 74 per cent. It is not representative of the community. It is not representative even of their own membership. As union membership in the work force has declined, union membership of the ALP caucus has continued to grow ever upwards. In 1983, union members were 49 per cent of the work force and unionists comprised 29 per cent of the ALP caucus. Now we have the situation where it is 17 per cent of the private sector and 74 per cent of the caucus. What contrasting statistics! What message do they send out to the Australian community: that the people on the other side—the alternative government—do not represent the workers out in the community. I am afraid to say that, from what I understand and from what I have been told by the business community, those statistics will become even more damning in years to come.

Under Labor's proposal, businesses will be forced to negotiate on the union's terms. The ALP policy to require employers to bargain in good faith with a union is nothing but a misnomer and a joke. In fact, it should be called union monopoly bargaining. What it really means is giving unions a right to become involved in enterprise bargaining against the wishes of the business. It will force businesses to reveal sensitive business and financial details to the union during negotiations. It will mean that employers will be forced to negotiate with unions regardless of whether they or their employees wish to. Who knows—perhaps we may even see some of the tactics that were put to such effective use around my electorate by the CFMEU coming back again: tactics, which I note that the member for Rankin has never criticised, by Mr Craig Johnston at Skillshare and also Johnston Tiles at both ends of my electorate.

The ALP is planning to hurt business through its industrial relations policies. In stark contrast to some members on the other side who have said that the ALP platform is just a platform and it is not policy, the Leader of the Opposition, Mark Latham, said on 31 January 2004:

Once the platform is adopted, it is binding on everyone in the party, from the new greenhorn recruit out in the branches of my electorate, right through to the federal parliamentary leader.

That is what the member for Werriwa said. The industrial relations platform is a great guide to what the ALP is going to do to destroy this nation. Those opposite cannot hide behind the fact that it is only a platform or that it was only a national conference—it is binding on every member from the greenhorn right through to the parliamentary leader. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. I.R. Causley)—The discussion is concluded.