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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3231

Mr TRUSS (Wide BayLeader of The Nationals) (12:30): I will not detain the House for long, but I need to respond to this amendment, which is another extraordinary contradiction in the presentation of this bill. This amendment says that the tribunal must not deal with a dispute before 1 January 2013. The government has introduced this legislation, truncated the debate, had a very brief parliamentary inquiry—on the grounds that it needed to be passed quickly through the parliament so that this new body could be set up by 1 July 2012. However, now we are dealing with an amendment which will mean that it cannot actually deal with a dispute until 1 January 2013.

Why all the rush? Why have the committee hearings been truncated? Why is it going to be pushed through the Senate without proper referral to the industrial relations committee of the Senate? Why is it being guillotined through the Senate, when the tribunal cannot deal with a dispute until 1 January 2013?

This is another example. There were 64 amendments we have just concluded debating in relation to the last bill. There is only one this time but, again, the minister provided no justification or explanation. It was so urgent that this bill had to be dealt with so that this body could be set up by 1 July 2012, but now an important part of its work, dealing with disputes, cannot start until 1 January 2013.

I suppose it will get involved in some of the other things that this tribunal is going to do, such as interfering in the contracts between truck drivers and their customers, interfering in the day-to-day activities of people going about any routine business that happens to involve a truck. It will get involved in all that sort of thing between 1 July and the end of the year. But, as far as settling any disputes—something you might think is constructive—is concerned, it cannot start until 1 January 2013 unless there are exceptional circumstances. Of course, we do not know exactly how 'exceptional circumstances' will be defined; it can allow this new body that is going to be set up to wake from its slumber and actually do some of its job, which might happen to be associated with dealing with disputes.

I know that this tribunal has other things that it is supposed to do; many of which are going to make the industry less efficient. It is certainly going to increase union power, and that is a fundamental reason the minister is proposing this legislation. We know that—we know this is the payback for the Transport Workers Union—but we cannot let this body get in the way of settling any disputes.

Mr Shorten interjecting

Mr TRUSS: I note you have your rent-a-crowd audience here to entertain as well. What they need to know is that they have another six months after this body is formed before it can actually settle any disputes. Who knows whether it is going to settle them in the end or exacerbate them, but the reality is that it cannot do that until 1 January 2013. That is the intent of the amendment before the House. The bill had to be rushed through the parliament; the debate had to be guillotined; we could not have proper committee hearings; we could not bring witnesses forward; the Senate are being denied their intended committee of inquiry, particularly in relation to the industrial relations elements of this bill. All of that is being denied because this body has to get up and be running by 1 July 2012 but it cannot actually hear any disputes until 1 January 2013.

This bill has been handled appallingly by the government right from the very beginning. As I said previously, it began with a report that came out in 2008 but it has taken until 2012 to get it into the parliament. Now it has to be rushed through without proper parliamentary debate—four years doing nothing, and now the parliament, which legislates the laws of this country, has not been given the opportunity to deal with this significant legislation under the procedures of the new paradigm we were supposed to deliver, the forgotten new paradigm. Now that we have reached this stage, all of this has to be done. They were in such a great hurry to set it up, but the tribunal cannot actually deal with anything until 2013.