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Thursday, 8 February 2007
Page: 8

Mr HAASE (2:40 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Would the minister inform the House of full-time jobs growth since the introduction of Work Choices? What are the benefits of a flexible workplace relations system? Are there any threats to further jobs growth?

Mr HOCKEY (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I thank the member for Kalgoorlie for his question and note that unemployment in his electorate is now 3.4 per cent. In Western Australia today the unemployment rate is three per cent. It can be no accident that there are 54,000 Australian workplace agreements signed under Work Choices in Western Australia. In fact, the take-up in Western Australia of AWAs has been three times the national average.

A little earlier, the Prime Minister was saying that union leaders do not necessarily speak for the workers. I will tell you what speaks for the workers: jobs—job creation; meaningful jobs; well-paid jobs. There is no doubt that, since the introduction of Work Choices, we have seen a rapid surge in the creation of jobs in Australia. More than 240,000 new jobs have been created since Work Choices was introduced and over 83 per cent of those jobs are full-time. That makes a lie of the comments by Bill Shorten that Work Choices would be ‘a green light for mass sackings’. How wrong he was! In fact, it has been a green light for the creation of new jobs.

The member for Brand said that it was going to be easier to sack people—when, in fact, it has actually been easier to employ people. That is because when you remove the unfair dismissal laws—the Labor Party’s job-destroying unfair dismissal laws—business creates jobs and small business, in particular, has the courage to go out and take the risk of employing someone and putting them in a meaningful and well-paid job. The Labor Party has continued to claim, even after Work Choices was introduced, that these are not real jobs. In a debate with me only a few months ago at the University of Sydney, Bill Shorten said, ‘They’re not the sorts of jobs which parents wish for their kids.’ That was Bill Shorten. He is coming in next parliament. We look forward to that!

The fundamental point is that Work Choices is part of the equation that helps to create jobs that are meaningful and real to Australian workers. It is part of the equation of a strong economy. It is part of the equation of making sure the budget is in surplus. It is about having the courage to make tough decisions that help to make the Australian economy stronger. I know the Leader of the Opposition has his training wheels on, but he has to have the courage to face up to the unions and tell them that they will not dictate workplace relations in a Labor government. The Labor Party has said that it will rip up Work Choices and that the unions are going to be back in town. I say to the Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party: focus on creating jobs—like the coalition creates jobs; focus on the wages of the workers; and focus not only on the jobs of today but also on the jobs of tomorrow.