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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12169


Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (11:52): I wish to commend the member for Wakefield for propitiously bringing this motion forward. If there is to be a fair go at work there must be a decent and comprehensive safety net. I spent 20 years as an employer and employed dozens and dozens of people in that time. I was a senior partner of a Brisbane CBD law firm and I can tell you the best way to redistribute wealth in this country is to employ someone. I found that simplicity, fairness and equity were crucial when sitting across the table negotiating arrangements with employees.

The Fair Work system gives Australians an efficient, fair and balanced national system with a stable regulatory framework. It provides workplaces the opportunity to enhance productivity in a real way to become more competitive and at the same time it allows fairness and balance. Despite the opposition scare campaign, the majority of employees and employers are using the Fair Work system to work out their differences in a mature and proactive way. In the year to June 2011, there were 22 fewer disputes than in the previous year. Since the Fair Work Act took effect, on average 3.6 days were lost per thousand workers per quarter compared to 13.5 days per quarter during the Howard coalition government. The Fair Work Act restored unfair dismissal protection to millions of Australian workers who were denied the basic entitlement under Work Choices.

I make no apologies for supporting security from the fear of unfair dismissal to about 2.8 million Australians and their families. Individual statutory contracts were a vehicle by which wages and conditions were diminished in this country. Under Work Choices 64 per cent of AWAs cut annual leave loading and 63 per cent cut penalty rates, to the shame of those opposite.

Mr Briggs interjecting

Mr NEUMANN: The Leader of the Opposition is under pressure from the member for Mayo and all the modest members opposite to reinstate Work-Choices-like legislation. I am struck by the tone and language of the Leader of the Opposition in his press conferences recently, because the devotee, the disciple of John Howard, lives and breathes not just in the member for Mayo but in the Leader of the Opposition. It is in their DNA, their blood, their sinew and their fibre.

They believe in Work Choices and they will bring it back. No longer is the Leader of the Opposition the workers' mate, the battlers' friend. He is out there supplying succour and assistance and words of comfort to the management of Qantas. This is the management that had this in place—and this is the evidence—for days before their annual general meeting. They gave a 71 per cent rise to senior management and are at the same time trying to lock out workers and stop Australian commuters from getting across the country. This is not just. This is the fault of the Qantas board. It is an irritant to international travellers and it is causing domestic disruption to the Australian economy.

If a union did this those opposite would be bleating. There would be hellfire and brimstone threatened by those opposite. But, guess what? It is the management of Qantas. The opposition side with big business always. That is in their real fibre; it is what they really believe. They come in here with their concern about living conditions and workers wages and this sort of stuff, but it is simply nonsense. They do not believe it. You see the class warfare from those opposite: the member for Durack and the member for Mayo. They really show what they truly believe. I hope everyone listens to this—the workers, the working families across the country, the pensioners and the people who are doing it tough. When they listen to the words of the member for Mayo and the member for Durack they really get what these guys are really about. If this mob were ever on this side of the chamber again they would bring back Work Choices. They would not call it Work Choices. The member for Mayo's private member's motion has Work Choices in it. His private member's bill has Work Choices in it. He is an architect, an author, of Work Choices. That is what this side really believes in. They talk about freedom, flexibility and productivity. That is simply a code word. We know what it is about; it is about driving down wages and increasing profits for big business. They are not interested in a cooperative and collective approach in workplace enterprise bargaining. Here they are—the Leader of the Opposition, the market's friend, urging draconian work. (Time expired)