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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6354

Mr BRIGGS (5:06 PM) —It is with great pleasure that I rise to speak on this very important matter of public importance proposed by the member for Stirling, who is doing an excellent job at exposing the flawed policies being pursued by the Deputy Prime Minister, who is the part-time minister for industrial relations also. The matter of public importance—and I have just had to check, following the member for Deakin’s speech—is about the job-destroying nature of the government’s industrial relations changes. It appears that the member for Deakin might have grabbed the wrong speech on the way in as he has talked about the stimulus package for the whole time, which is a surprise, given the member for Deakin’s history as an ETU official.

He did spend yesterday, as I understand, in the caucus. A good Labor colleague over there contacted me yesterday and mentioned that during the Labor caucus meeting, which went for some three hours yesterday, there were a couple of items on the agenda. The first one was the ABCC changes, the backdown on the ABCC the Deputy Prime Minister is instigating. The second item was the briefing on the most important matter we are facing in the history of the world, according to those on the other side—climate change. They did not quite get to the matter of climate change, as I understand it. They had three hours of blood-letting about union power. We know what drives those on the other side. We know what will always drive those on the other side and it is union power. So it did strike me as passing strange that the member for Deakin, a former ETU official, very well associated with Dean Mile and Kevin Harkins, was not able to address the terms of the MPI which is:

The job destroying nature of the Government’s industrial relations changes.

They are job destroying. We will talk about two—

Mr Perrett —No-one got punched.

Mr BRIGGS —We do not know that actually, Member for Moreton. We understand there was some quite aggressive discussion. I do not know where the member for Deakin ended up. I know the member for Moreton would have been with the Deputy Prime Minister. He is tactically smart. Where the member for Deakin ended up, I do not know. I suspect he was against where they were going with it, but I was not there, obviously. I will have to check with my Labor source.

Back on the matter of public importance, the member for Stirling is right in saying that this government has engaged in the biggest re-regulation of Australia’s labour market in the history of our country. What it has done is wind back the economic reform cycle, which is disappointing, particularly coming from the member for Blaxland, who follows a great reformer. Two members ago, the then member for Blaxland did instigate some great economic reforms in this country. I will pay him credit for that. Some of them were labour market reforms. In fact, in 1993 he did make very small steps to move away from the centralised award system to the enterprise bargaining system. So it is disappointing that the new member for Blaxland—a former senior advisor to Bob Carr from the failed state of New South Wales—would participate in backing away from such important reforms.

The member for Blaxland mentioned the award modernisation issue, which has just turned into a complete debacle. The Deputy Prime Minister would have known it would be a complete debacle because this report, done in 2006 in her department, tells her that if you go ahead and say that you will not make employees and employers worse off it will end up as a disaster; it will destroy jobs. It says it in the report. But what did she go and do? She goes and issues an instruction to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission which says that neither employers nor employees shall be worse off. It says very clearly in here that, if you do that, you will destroy jobs. So there is the Deputy Prime Minister not thinking it through and playing, as she has to, to her union mates in the Labor Party. She ‘has to’ because they ran the biggest scare campaign in the history of this country to get the Labor Party elected. She has to play this game of implementing the reforms that the unions want.

The member for Blaxland quoted the ACCI in talking about award modernisation. Let me put something else on the record from ACCI from 11 June 2009:

The Government’s award modernisation process should not come at the expense of increasing employers’ costs or introducing new or additional inflexibilities. If it does, the Government should have no hesitation in directing the tribunal to have another go.

‘Have another go’ is exactly what the Deputy Prime Minister should do, but she is too stubborn. She has got this wrong. She is going to cost jobs. The reforms that these people are implementing are going to make a lot of Australians worse off. The one thing we did not see in the introduction of their re-regulation bills, the union sponsored bills, was an analysis of how many jobs would be created—because they will not create jobs. This is not a policy to create jobs. This is a policy to protect the jobs of those— (Time expired)