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Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Page: 12497

Workplace Relations


Mrs D'ATH (Petrie) (14:37): 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. Will the minister inform the House how the Fair Work Act has ensured the dignity of working people and supported our economy? How were workers treated before the introduction of the Fair Work Act?


Mr CREAN (HothamMinister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts) (14:38): I thank the member for her question. She entered this parliament on the basis of restoring dignity to workers, and the government that she joined did that. It did it by replacing the discredited Work Choices legislation with Fair Work Australia. Very interestingly, in that excruciating interview that the member for North Sydney was involved in last night, when he was asked what their IR policy was, he said, 'It's the government's policy; we don't intend to change it.' So that policy that they went to the election on, that they got trounced on, they have now ditched. But does anyone believe them? On this side of the House we do not.

So far as restoring dignity to the workplace goes, we did it in a number of ways. We restored fairness, we restored dignity, we restored good-faith bargaining and, most of all, we restored balance. Industrial relations, when those opposite sat in office, was to take a one-sided approach, to always back the employer and bash the worker. We not only restored all of those values—Australian values, Labor values—but enshrined them in legislation.

I am also asked how our legislation supported the economy. It supported it in a number of ways. Over four years we have seen the fastest employment growth ever in the history of this country, and that is projected to double in the next eight years. That has been done on the basis of restoring fairness as well as the sound fiscal and economic policies that this government has introduced. We have also lowered industrial disputes compared to the number there were when the Liberals were in office. Most recently, we demonstrated how, by using the act, we could get Qantas flying again, after Qantas took the precipitous decision of locking out its workforce and grounding the airline.

I go again to the interview that the member for North Sydney sweated over—as well he might—last night. In that interview, when he was asked the question:

… When did you first hear … that it was considering the option of grounding its fleet or locking out staff?

he said: 'Oh, weeks ago.' So here is the member for North Sydney at least admitting that it was weeks ago that they knew. So here is the Labor government—

Mr Hockey interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for North Sydney.

Mr CREAN: working in the national interest to get the airline flying again and the member for North Sydney, acting in his own—

Mr Hockey interjecting

Mr CREAN: grubby political interests, to make sure that their instrument of choice continues—the lockout—

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for North Sydney will cease interjecting. The minister will relate his remarks to the question, and it will assist if the member for North Sydney does not give him ample opportunity to respond to interjections. He should cease interjecting. The minister should not respond to the interjections and should relate his material directly to the question.

Mr CREAN: I am asked, Mr Speaker, how the workers were treated under previous legislation. Let me also remind people of the so-called call for early intervention, that there had been a cacophony on in terms of us. In that excruciating interview last night, he referred to his intervention when he was the minister for industrial relations in the Tristar dispute. He acknowledges that. Let me tell you about that intervention in terms of expedition, because that dispute had been going for 18 months.

Mr Hockey interjecting

Mr CREAN: The Prime Minister of the day asked you to intervene; you said that you did—

The SPEAKER: Order! The minister will address his remarks through the chair.

Mr CREAN: And how did the minister intervene? He intervened by urging bosses of the car parts worker to sack its entire workforce and re-employ them on individual contracts. That is the attitude they would take to industrial relations. It is not the Labor way but it is the Liberal way.

Mr Hockey interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for North Sydney will withdraw.

Mr Hockey: I withdraw.