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Thursday, 12 March 2009
Page: 2530

Mr KEENAN (2:50 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Can the Prime Minister explain why there has been a 400 per cent increase in days lost to strikes in the first year of his government?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —As those opposite will fully understand, the government is in the process of changing Australia’s industrial relations laws. Furthermore, those changes in large part depend on matters which have yet to be determined in the House and in the Senate.

Mr Keenan interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Stirling has asked his question.

Mr RUDD —I would have thought that those opposite—reflecting, as they are seeking to do, on the question of the future industrial relations laws of Australia—would bear in mind exactly what might be the future course of action and passage through the Senate. Again going back to what was said today on the Alan Jones program, the member for Higgins, the next Leader of the Opposition, said that if this legislation—

Mr Hockey —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Prime Minister was asked why there has been a massive increase in strikes in the first year of his government. He is now seeking to—

The SPEAKER —The member for North Sydney will resume his seat. The Prime Minister is 38 seconds into his answer.

Mr RUDD —On the question of industrial disputation, the honourable member will be fully aware that substantive changes to industrial relations laws in this country are pending the passage of our legislation in the Senate. That is the first point. The second is this: the destination of the legislation in the Senate is a matter which has not been resolved within the Liberal Party. Thirdly, the alternative leader of the Liberal Party, the member for Higgins, said today that this legislation—

Mr Hartsuyker —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order, again on relevance. This was an issue about strikes and the increase in the number of strikes and the Prime Minister should address the question.

The SPEAKER —The Prime Minister is responding to the question.

Mr RUDD —Mr Speaker, I am referring to the fact that industrial disputation is subject to the industrial relations laws of the time and general economic circumstances. Secondly, those opposite have not yet given their consent in the Senate to the passage of this government’s industrial relations reforms. Therefore it is entirely material that when the alternative leader of the opposition was asked this morning whether this legislation should be rejected in the Senate he answered:

Well, this legislation in the form that it is should not be passed.

In other words, what the alternative leader of the opposition is now saying definitively is that those representing the Liberal Party in the Senate should block this legislation. The Leader of the Opposition currently, the member for Wentworth, has basically engaged in a strategy where their policy on industrial relations so far in the Senate is one of duck and cover; that is, ‘Let’s not tell anybody what we are going to do should amendments be rejected in the Senate.’ That is their position. The person who has given definition to this is the next leader of the opposition.