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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12166

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (11:42): It is a great pleasure to speak on this motion, and I thank the member for Wakefield for bringing it before the House, because industrial relations has been a central issue of federal politics since the very Federation of this great nation. It has been a debate fought out at just about every election and it has been a central debate, certainly for those on this side of the House, because we understand that it represents the bringing together of those core economic and industrial rights issues that go to the heart of what drives the people who elect us to represent them in this place.

It is a central issue when you think of the architecture of our industrial relations system, and the national wage case—that yearly coming together of members of the Fair Work tribunal, where they consider the movements in prices and the need for workers' wages to keep pace with the costs of living. That represents a shift in wages, take-home income, for about a quarter of Australians—and, if you think about it, Mr Deputy Speaker, it has a bigger impact on their lives. I know that is of little interest to the member for Durack, but it has a bigger impact on the take-home pay of the sorts of workers that I know the member for Wakefield used to represent: low-paid workers. It has a bigger impact on their working lives than the annual cycle of budgets and tax cuts will ever have on them because of the take-home pay increases that are made possible by those decisions.

You will not hear those opposite talk about that, because those workers are invisible to them. Similarly, they have little interest in the award provisions that were protected by the Fair Work Act—after their 11 years of assault on them—like penalty rates, overtime and others that ordinary Australian workers rely on to make ends meet. They talk a lot about the cost of living over on that side of the chamber because that is what their focus groups are telling them. What they do not understand is that these provisions that are contained in the industrial instruments are how ordinary Australians make ends meet. These are provisions that are protected by those on this side of the chamber, but those that are of absolutely no concern to those on that side.

I was amused to follow the easily amazed member for Durack who gave a speech which would have made any class warrior on any side of politics proud in the 10 minutes that he stood here before us. The member for Durack would probably be unaware of this, but I note that he is wearing a red tie today. He is probably unaware that one of those unionists that he was disparaging—the pilots—if they wore that red tie to work a few weeks ago, they would have been stood down. That is the sort of industrial action we are talking about that these tyrants of the union movement were engaged in—wearing a red tie to work to show their solidarity. If he wore that red tie—if he were a pilot—he would have been stood down. The member for Durack might have done himself the favour of actually informing himself before engaging in this debate.

Those opposite obviously have as many positions on the IR debate as it is possible to have. You have got those who are the wolf in sheep's clothing—that is, the Leader of the Opposition. This is the man who ran around the country between 1996 and 2000 encouraging employers in the coal industry to lockout their workers and then encouraging the industrial tribunals to do absolutely nothing about it who is today egging on the Prime Minister to intervene to terminate the bargaining period and to arbitrate on this dispute. He has had a Damascus like conversion over the last decade. Then you have the wolves in wolves' clothing and that is the member for Mayo over here. I am pleased that he is at least honest—and he has been consistently honest in this debate—and I must say that I disagree with the member for Durack on many things but he is consistently honest in this debate too. They have no time for industrial laws, except those that go to the hearts of worker's rights. We have the wolf in wolf's' clothing over here and the wolf in sheep's clothing represented by the Leader of the Opposition. The real test of a successful industrial relations system is the jobs that it creates—over 750,000 jobs created—the rights that it protects. We make no bones about the fact that we protect take-home income, penalty rates and overtime and that protracted disputes like Qantas can be resolved, as they will be over the next 21 days. (Time expired)