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Thursday, 14 February 2008
Page: 384

Ms HALL (2:26 PM) —My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister. What information is available about the impact of Australian workplace agreements on working families?

Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) —I thank the member for Shortland for her question. Today in the Senate, the Liberal Party voted for the continuation of Work Choices. In order to do that—to vote for a continued industrial relations extremism and a continued ripping off of Australian working families—it tried to hide behind creating an inquiry. One of the terms of reference of that inquiry is—would you believe it!—the ‘economic and social impacts from the abolition of individual statutory agreements’. This has come from a political party which, in government, deliberately did not want to know how Australian workplace agreements were hurting working families.

They could have collected this data, analysed it and released it but they did not want to know how bad these agreements were. They did not want them to come to public light. Given the members of the Liberal Party used to get up in this place and screech on about how good AWAs were for working families, for women, for young people—for all Australians—you would have thought they would have comprehensively analysed the data at their disposal. But, of course, they did not. What we do know is that, in May 2006, the Office of the Employment Advocate revealed that it had been reviewing AWAs to determine how many were stripping away what the former government deceptively and contemptuously called ‘protected award conditions’.

I welcome the Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s new-found interest in things like annual leave loading, because the data showed this: under the government of which she was a cabinet member, 64 per cent of Australian workplace agreements cut annual leave loading. That is how much she cares about annual leave loading—64 per cent of those agreements cut annual leave loading. Then, 63 per cent of them cut penalty rates. Does she now care about penalty rates because she has made the short walk from here to there? She clearly did not care about them then—63 per cent of those agreements, no penalty rates.

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order under standing order 64(c). The minister continues to refer to the honourable member by a term other than her seat, and she should desist from doing so.

The SPEAKER —All members should refer to members by their seats whilst here in the chamber.

Ms GILLARD —The member of the Liberal Party, sitting opposite, when in government could have had this data and did not want to know about it. Fifty-two per cent of these agreements cut shift loadings, 51 per cent cut overtime loadings, 48 per cent cut monetary allowance and 46 per cent cut holiday pay. The government at that stage denied it was doing any further modelling but, in April 2007, data was leaked to the media that revealed further erosion by Australian workplace agreements of pay and conditions. In that leaked data, 75 per cent of agreements cut shift loadings, 68 per cent cut penalty rates, 57 per cent cut monetary allowances and 52 per cent cut public holiday pay.

Mr Hockey interjecting

Ms GILLARD —What we know—and the former minister really should be a bit more wise about his interjections—is that they never properly coded or analysed the data to be able to tell whether the loss of these conditions was compensated for. The minister could have authorised analysis of that data, but he did not, because he did not want to know the answer. He deliberately wanted to run a system where he did not want to know the answer. What we do know is that these conditions were ripped away by a government that put the information into the dark and did not want Australians to know. What we do know is that Australian workplace agreements ripped away those basic conditions, and we also know that many of those agreements had in them no particular compensation in terms of the amount of money that was paid to people. This is the system that the former government put into place in this country. This is the system that they argued for in the lead-up to the last election, and this is the system that the Australian people voted against and rejected. They voted in favour of Labor’s fair and balanced system but, in arrogant contempt of the views of the Australian people, the Liberal Party—informed by their born-to-rule mentality—have today voted for a continuation of Work Choices. They have voted to spit in the face of the Australian people and to deny them fairness and balance at work. Every Australian should know this and every Australian should judge them on the basis of it.