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Monday, 7 November 2005
Page: 145

Mr TUCKEY (10:17 PM) —As evidence of the fact that there are so many fibs told in regard to the Workplace Relations Amendment (Work Choices) Bill 2005 I am interested to see two persons in this place, one who has been writing letters to pensioners and the other, the member for Bendigo, who has just run the argument that pensioners will get less in this arrangement. The simple fact is that—

Mr Edwards —You probably don’t know any pensioners in your electorate!

Mr TUCKEY —We know all about you. I have read a lot of the letters from your electorate. You talk one way in here and another way out there.

Mr Edwards —Mr Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: I think it is appropriate for a member, when speaking, to refer to a member by the appropriate title. I understand that ‘you’ is not the appropriate title.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. IR Causley)—I understand the member for Cowan initiated this exchange and I think he should take what he gets.

Mr TUCKEY —There will never be a time in Australia when the pensioner—

Mr Edwards — Mr Deputy Speaker, on a point of order.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —If this is a frivolous point of order I will deal with it.

Mr Edwards —Is it then appropriate, given your ruling, for members to refer to each other in this place as ‘you’?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —No, it is not.

Mr Edwards —Can I then draw your attention to the standing orders.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —There is no point of order.

Mr TUCKEY —The pension that is paid to Australians today can only be increased. If there were a slowdown in male total average weekly earnings—and there will not be—then of course the inflation rate would apply. That is the rule. The pensioners of today, under Howard government policy, either receive an increase relative to the consumer price index or an increase that maintains their pension at 25 per cent of MTAWE. Anybody who writes to a pensioner and frightens them in this fashion, saying that they could actually receive a reduction in their pension, has little interest in their welfare but much in their own.

Mr Edwards —And anyone who doesn’t believe it doesn’t know what they are talking about.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! I remind the member for Cowan of standing order 65(b).

Mr TUCKEY —I will not respond to further interjections, because they are unparliamentary. I made my maiden speech 25 years ago on industrial relations. I thought it was a big problem then, after 30 years as an employer. A lot of my concerns related to the rights of workers. I found that, in a seven-day a week industry such as the hotel industry, they were fed up with an award where they got more money one week and less the next, simply on the basis of the rotation of their rosters. They did not understand; they did not want that. In fact, we agreed back in the sixties to a flat rate and everybody in town wanted to work under that arrangement. When I employed grader drivers, they were not interested either in the award or in paying union dues. They knew what they were worth—as did truckies; they wanted trip money.

You wonder why there has been this massive departure from membership of trade unions in Australia today. It was interesting to note that the member for Bendigo suggested that someone, in doing a deal with their own employer, needed Chopper Reid. Too late. The trade union movement has had all the heavies for years—the Domicans, the Reynolds and others. Excuse me, but when it comes to negotiating face to face with an employer, you can still have the trade union as your representative—but they will have to do a bit of work. They cannot just drop down to the industrial commission—wink, wink, nod, nod to a few people who have been promoted from the industry, either from one side or the other, into that job and get an outcome. They will have to do a bit of work. They will have to consider the issues relevant to the matter. Might I add that you do not need your accountant, although, if that were your choice, you could do so.

  (Quorum formed) There is only one industry in Australia that needs to fear this legislation—the trade union bureaucracy and, of course, their sycophants in this place. The reality is that they will have to do a bit of work, as I said earlier. If this program and these proposals are as bad as is being suggested, the trade union movement is going to have millions of members. I would like to take a bet on that. The reality is that people abandoned unions because they did not think they were worth $500 or more per year. Who is left? The people in the construction industry, who are too terrified that they will see themselves black-banned, not getting any employment, if they do not join. Who else wants to be with them? Practically no-one. The last two leaders of the ACTU have been schoolteachers and, of course, in every part of private enterprise nobody wants to know they exist. So why are they going frantic in this place? Because they are worried about their future—not about the future of the people for whom they cry crocodile tears.

But of course we well remember the GST campaign—how the Labor Party were going to surf into office on the strength of the GST and community anger. I just hope they keep it up. The Australian people want positive policies. They want initiatives and they want people to come forward from this parliament to deliver them the things we have yet to achieve—better taxation and matters like that. But the Labor Party have put us on notice: they are going to campaign up to the next election on something that will be harsh and stark reality by that time. Again they will have to explain to the Australian people why all their predictions did not come true.

The Labor Party are so divorced from their core constituency, their aspirations and their needs that it is not funny. They lecture us time and again—and I see a member in here now possibly contemplating making a speech, and it will be somewhere at the end of the list so he will get nothing now, because we are speaking for 20 minutes instead of for 10 minutes. But the reality is that those opposite cannot seem to differentiate between an entitlement and the money that that entitlement is worth. A member got up the other day and virtually misled this House by simply asking half a question about an AWA; they did not have the integrity to tell this House that there was a cash settlement for the so-called ‘lost’ entitlements. When we rang the employer, he said, ‘But that’s what my workers want.’ When I ran a hotel, that is what my workers wanted too.

The member for Adelaide can tell us what her views are, but the reality is that she will find one person who says they are not happy, and she will trot them out. They will be like those workers who came to this place from Boeing—all 20 of them, out of a work force of 400—who think that the entire work force should sing to their tune. There are four hundred and something workers there, and 20 of them thought they had a right above the rest, and they were trying to picket the place. Of course, they have not got the message yet that their working colleagues do not want to know about them.

These are the issues before the parliament today. They will be tested. It is about two years to the next election, I remind the opposition. The state governments will desert them. Yes, they will go through their posturing and they will put an appeal to the High Court, but why will they want to do that? As an excuse, so that they can say, ‘We have lost the case, we have fought the good fight, we are going to follow Victoria’—and please remember that, notwithstanding the fact that it was Jeff Kennett, a Liberal leader, who referred the powers of the Victorian government to this parliament, Steve Bracks never took them back, and he has no intention of doing so. If I were allowed to run a book in this place, I would be giving a good shade of odds that the rest of the premiers will line up and desert this lot, and they will have nothing, because they have not got one positive policy. They send out letters to pensioners, trying to scare the hell out of them when there is absolutely no possibility that pensioners will have their pensions reduced in any way—they can only go up, by one mechanism or another.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I note the time. If that is a matter of interest to you, I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.