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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12043


Mr PYNE (SturtManager of Opposition Business) (15:21): My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to her previous answer where she indicated that, under section 431 of the act, a minister needs to be satisfied of the seriousness of an issue in the national interest before they use that section. I further refer her to the answer that the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure has given today where he indicated that he had had countless meetings with Qantas and the union about this matter, and the answer that he has just given where he has indicated amply that he fully understood the seriousness of the action being taken by Qantas on Saturday. Prime Minister, what more did you need to know before you acted under section 431 to protect the travelling public of Australia?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (15:22): I am very happy to answer the question because it once again goes to the fiction and falsehood that the opposition are pursuing here. It is truly a disgraceful course of conduct when we are dealing with issues in the national interest. I say again to the opposition: when they are not in this negative mode—if they ever get into anything other than this negative mode—perhaps when they go back to their offices and sit down quietly and perhaps when the Work Choices fever ekes out of their veins, they should get out the Fair Work Act and start looking at some industrial law and they should think about it.

This is the declaration a minister makes when the minister needs to have evidence that he or she is acting legally appropriately—that is, that the test has been met about significant damage to the national economy. The minister does not just have a little think to themselves; they need to have the evidence. They also need to make sure that every step that they take can withstand judicial review, because this can be judicially reviewable. Ministerial declarations can be judicially reviewable.

Let us be very clear about the course the Leader of the Opposition would have had this nation on. Let us go through all the ridiculous hypocrisy we have heard today. We have got the Liberal Party now talking up the role of the industrial umpire. They spent a decade trying to kill it. Now they are talking up the role of the industrial umpire. They cannot wait to run in front of the industrial umpire after a decade of trying to kill it. We have got the Liberal Party talking up the role of arbitration when they spent more than a decade pursuing the case that arbitration was killing the Australian economy and we needed to be in a world of enterprise bargaining—the Liberal Party talking up arbitration after they brought us Work Choices, clearly calculated to end the safety net, to limit arbitration, to not enable fair bargaining and to kill the industrial umpire. That is what the Liberal Party did.

Against that backdrop of Work Choices, they get out the Fair Work Act, they go, 'Oh, I'll have a look at it, a bit of a newspaper and a bit of a think'—and now I am an industrial relations lawyer apparently—and then they peddle this falsehood that a minister can just scrawl a declaration on a piece of paper. It would have been judicially reviewed. That is what would have happened. There would have been months potentially of legal uncertainty. This section had never been used before.

The Leader of the Opposition is now saying to me, 'Why did you put it in your act?' It was in predecessor acts. Maybe the Leader of the Opposition wants to get Peter Reith on the phone and ask him that question—another question coming from the Leader of the Opposition's direct ignorance about workplace relations law because he does not care about jobs and he does not care about fairness at work. He has never bothered to learn anything about it.

The Leader of the Opposition, in suggesting that this was the better course for the government on Saturday, is peddling a falsehood. The government went down the course that had greater legal certainty, that would get the result that we needed, that is, that planes were back in the sky and—guess what—they are. That is what we did. We succeeded in getting planes back in the sky. The Leader of the Opposition would have had this nation on a course where—

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: in any interpretation of being directly relevant to the question she was asked, what we have just heard is quite clearly in no way relevant. She was asked how much more evidence she needed to be convinced that it was in the national interest in light of what had been—

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Mackellar will resume her seat. It would be preferable if there was less argument that is directly relevant, but the Prime Minister has the call.

Ms GILLARD: The interjection shows the falsehood. The test is not what I needed; it is what would have survived a subsequent judicial review. The Leader of the Opposition wanted to have this nation on a course of months of uncertainty. We wanted to fix this problem and we did. We know that that has hurt you—that people are getting back on planes—because that is how negative you are. (Time expired)