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Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Page: 12879

Mr TEHAN (Wannon) (18:40): It gives me great pleasure to rise tonight to talk on the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2012, because it really shows this government up for what it is: a tricky and untrustworthy government. The first point of proof on this fact is the way the government has rushed this bill into this place. It has not given the opposition or the Independent members any time to carefully examine and look at the detail—because it does not want the detail looked at when it comes to this bill, even though the minister has had the time to look at the detail, to examine it. He has obviously had the report sitting on his desk for a long time. Then, bang—just whip the legislation in and try to get it off the table so we do not get the scrutiny of what the government is up to in presenting this bill.

If anything belled the cat in this regard, it was what happened today in this chamber with the member for Throsby. The member for Throsby was rushed in to speak on this bill. So hurried was he that he grabbed the wrong talking points, and he spoke on a different bill for his whole time, even though members from this side were interjecting and saying, 'You're talking about the wrong bill!' There are embarrassing things you can do in this chamber. I am sure all of us at some stage will do some embarrassing things, and we will say, 'I wish I hadn't gone down that path.' You would think that if you spoke for five minutes on a different bill and the opposition was telling you that you were talking about the wrong bill you would say: 'Hell, what am I going to do here? I'd better change direction.' But no, the member for Throsby went for 15 minutes, the whole way. It is as though he drove down a wrong-way road, in the wrong direction, for 15 minutes, with people saying to him, 'Turn around; you're going the wrong way.'

Mr Briggs: The workers' representative!

Mr TEHAN: The workers' representative—this is him. I pity the workers! This is the calibre of their representation. A former member of the ACTU is about to depart—and I think he wants to depart because he does not want to hear any more about the performance of the member for Throsby.

But it is not his fault, in all essence, because it is the minister's fault. The minister should not treat this place with such contempt. He should not put members on that side in that predicament. He should not have them rushing into this place not knowing what the bill is, not knowing what they are talking about. Worse than that, he is trying to sneak things through this parliament without the proper exposure.

I commend the member for Mayo in this regard, because he belled the cat on this; he belled the cat quite clearly on what this minister was up to—about how he was creating more jobs for the boys. We know where the minister comes from. His heart and soul are still with the AWU and the union movement, and he wants to make sure that continues.

So he is sneaking in, in this legislation, the creation of two extra positions. Now, who will those positions go to, I wonder. One might think that, on past history, you might want to be able to say that there would be some balance in those appointments. But we know, when we look at the history of recent appointments, that there will be no balance, that it will be jobs for the boys, that it will be the union mates who are looked after. And such is the rush that this is being done with that we do not even know how these two new positions are going to fit with the existing vice-president positions. We know they will have a position of privilege above those other positions, but how it all neatly fits together no-one is clear on. But, for the minister, that is irrelevant, because what is important to him is to make sure that the jobs for the boys can continue.

We only have to look at the process which has brought us here tonight to see that that is what will happen. Let us take a few steps back. Let us look at how the review of the Fair Work Act was conducted. If you want to do a review that will come up with exactly the recommendations that you want, that you require, what is the best way to ensure that happens? You appoint people to your review panel who you know will give you what you want, and that is exactly what the minister did in putting the panel together to review the act. He put three people on there who, when you look on their record and everything they have said, in no way can be seen to be impartial. All of them are on the record as saying that, in essence, the union movement should be front and centre of any workplace relations arrangements. That is what they are on the record as saying, and that is what their review has done.

The irony is that those recommendations where there might have been a little bit more balance put in have been disregarded by the minister in this bill. He has just taken those recommendations which he thinks will cement the unions, front and square, in the centre of our workplace arrangements and brought them in. And he has disregarded a real opportunity to make sure that people can get employed in this country. He has made sure that long-term unemployment will continue to rise. He has made sure that youth unemployment will continue to rise. I know this because I wrote to this minister, asking him to include, as part of this process, an assessment of whether the way that the three-hour minimum rule was introduced, dealt with and then wound back could be assessed, because the time it took for that three-hour minimum engagement for after-school work to become 1½ hours again was over 18 months and required three court decisions—and a length of time that meant that the people who originally sparked the case had left school and missed 18 months of gaining valuable work experience and income. And what was the minister's response to that? He completely ignored it and said it was irrelevant and did not need to be looked at. What he did, in essence, was say that, if you have an issue with the Fair Work Act and the way it deals with things, then he is quite happy for the process to end up in the courts, for it to take over a year and a half to be dealt with, and he couldn't care less what happens in that period of time. The real damage that will be done is to unemployed youth and the long-term unemployed, because they are the people who always suffer when the union movement are put front and centre and are the only consideration in the way that the workplace relations legislation and arbitration system works in this country.

There are other aspects of this bill that we also need to look into. Another one is how the default process will work for superannuation within awards. Once again, we have had excellent speeches by members on this side on this issue. In particular, I would like to commend Mr Fletcher, the member for Bradfield. He has really belled the cat on what the government is about with this issue. He went chapter and verse through what the Productivity Commission recommended to the minister in this regard. It quite clearly showed that the default position should be that, if an employee wants to choose a super fund which is not an industry super fund, which is a retail super fund, then they should be able to make that choice. But what has the minister done? The minister has been tricky. There is no other word for it: the minister has been tricky. And the sad thing here is that I think what we are seeing is that the Prime Minister's trickiness is starting to rub off on the frontbench of the government—

Mr Frydenberg interjecting

Mr TEHAN: Well, maybe that's true! Maybe it's the other way around, because in many ways I suppose the minister did put the Prime Minister there, so maybe I'm being a little bit unfair on the minister. Whatever it is, we have seen trickiness when it comes to saying one thing before an election and one thing after when it comes to the carbon tax. We have seen trickiness when it comes to saying one thing on a budget surplus and then doing another thing after it. And what we are seeing here is trickiness again.

We have seen the Productivity Commission make quite clear recommendations to the minister as to how this issue should be treated. And what has the minister done? The minister has ignored it and once again made sure that his union mates will be looked after, because it is his union mates who benefit from sitting on these industry super fund boards. It is his union mates who are the beneficiaries of the huge incomes they get from sitting on these boards.

Mr Frydenberg: That's what he was!

Mr TEHAN: And he knows about this, as the member for Kooyong rightly points out, because, before he came into this place, he was a beneficiary of this jobs-for-the-boys regime.

Industry super funds have their place. Let us not confuse the issue; they have their place, but we have to ensure that they are not the only place where default funds go. We have to ensure that there is choice in this sector because the superannuation system and industry in this country are too important for the future of Australians to have them played around with and manipulated. Yet, sadly, it seems that is what this government is intent on doing.

I say to the Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation that, when he looks at default funds in modern awards, it is not too late to say: 'I've got this wrong. I am manipulating the industry here. I am showing a deliberate bias towards retail funds and I need to correct this.' Let us not forget what the minister has already put the superannuation industry through, through his so-called reforms which have done nothing but create red tape and more red tape for that sector. Now he wants to punish them and penalise them again. Minister, these are the future savings of Australians that you are playing with here. They are not something that should be toyed with. You should change your mind on this, and we on this side will be doing everything we can to make sure that you do.

In summary, this is a bad bill, a tricky bill and a rushed bill. The reason it is being rushed is that the government does not want it to have the scrutiny that it should have, because the government is trying to rush things through to get away with blue murder. We will hold the government to account for this. It is not good enough. This is not the way you govern a country.

As a matter of fact, the Australian people are sick of being governed in this way. What they want to see is good governance, integrity in government and high-calibre people delivering policies which are there for all members of the Australian community and which do not benefit privileged sectors of the community that ministers owe their allegiance to and owe their position in this place to. We need a better government for this country. My hope is that those on the other side will finally recognise this and have the courage to go to an election because, if they keep putting through this place pieces of legislation like this, they will harm the long-term interests of this nation, and the repair job in fixing it will be enormous. This is a bad bill. It has been rushed in, and it should be opposed.