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Thursday, 21 October 2010
Page: 1148

Mr CHEESEMAN (2:45 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts representing the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations. Why is a fair deal at work important to Australians and what challenges does the government face in this area?

Mr CREAN (Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts) —Fairness for workers is important. It is important to their families and it is also important to the economy. So far as families are concerned, it is important to ensure that their rights are protected in the workplace: the right to collectively bargain and the requirement for employers to bargain in good faith. Also, the safety nets that we have introduced are important for their security. As for the importance to the economy, since we changed the previously unfair Work Choices arrangements we have seen productivity increase in the economy, real wages go up, an increase in jobs—600,000 of them created since we have been in office—a fall in industrial disputes and an assessment by Access Economics that the changes that we made to the unfair Work Choices legislation would reap benefits of $4.8 billion in savings to the Australian economy over the course of the next decade.

I am also asked if there are any challenges to this. I have to ask myself, ‘Why would you challenge a framework that delivered those sorts of outcomes?’ But those on the other side do challenge it. The coalition has basically committed, through statements today and earlier this month, to return this country to Work Choices, were they to get back into office. Remember that during the election campaign the Leader of the Opposition, when questioned about returning to Work Choices, said it was ‘dead, buried and cremated’. He even had to put it in writing on the Neil Mitchell program, because he told us that you could not believe a thing he said unless it was included in writing.

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, on a point of order: again, for the third time today, this could not possibly be directly relevant to the question that the minister was asked. He was asked about hurdles to do with workplace relations. Past history is not relevant to the government’s policies for the future.

The SPEAKER —The question went to what challenges this government faced in this area. In one sentence the minister talked about an announcement today and then went on to matters in the election. I assumed that he was going to get back to announcements today.

Mr CREAN —I was asked about the challenges, and the challenge comes from the other side of the parliament. Dead, buried and cremated, we have got the exhumation party out—the shadow Treasurer and the shadow finance minister.

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! The minister will get back to the question. He will ignore the interjectors. The interjections will cease.

Mr CREAN —The challenge to Australia if Work Choices returns is this: a cut to conditions in the workplace, a freeze on pay—

Mr PYNE (Sturt) [2:48 PM] —I move:

That the member be no longer heard.

Question put.