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Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Page: 12889

Mr FRYDENBERG (Kooyong) (19:32): This bill from this government is about a closed shop. It is anticompetitive. It is putting the workers last and politics first. Let's face it: those on the other side have 100 per cent of their front bench who are members of the union. Seventy per cent of their caucus are members of the union. At a Labor conference 50 per cent of the votes go to the union. But in Australia only 12 per cent of the private sector workforce are members of the union and only 18 per cent of the general workforce are members of the union.

Why will you not give the workers of Australia a free choice about who their default super fund will be? Industry super funds are in the pockets of the union. Who knows this best? The Minister for Industrial Relations and Workplace Relations. He knows this best, because he was a director himself of an industry super fund and now he is the fox in charge of the henhouse.

The Productivity Commission has made a recommendation that this government extend default super funds much more broadly than it currently does with industry super funds. We on this side know that if we get our chance in government we will extend default super funds to any MySuper-compliant super fund. This is about allowing the market to determine where the workers choose to place their super funds. We have $1.4 trillion in superannuation in this country. That is a massive amount of money. The workers of Australia should have the right, the choice and the freedom to determine where their money goes.

Choice and freedom are essential to the Liberal Party's DNA. It does not matter whether it is in health, where private health insurance is being cut by the government. It does not matter whether it is in education, where you seek to deny funding to private schools, independent and Catholic. It does not matter whether it is in workplace relations and the superannuation industry.

Many of my colleagues on this side have spoken passionately and with conviction about the rort that is currently taking place before our very eyes—a rort that is in the interest only of the union movement and not of the workers of Australia and a rort that is against the Productivity Commission's very recommendations. With some important legislation before this House you would think there would be proper scrutiny. You would think that we would have weeks to look at the legislation and to consult the stakeholders. We were given less than 24 hours to look at this legislation. Shame on you! Shame on the member for Maribyrnong! Our parliamentary draftsmen did not even have time to draft the amendments that we wanted to bring forward.

Why are you hiding from scrutiny? You know why the member for Maribyrnong is hiding from scrutiny. He does not want the Australian people to know about this cover-up. He does not want the Australian people to know that it is his mates in the union movement who are the ones who will benefit. You do not want members of the Australian public—or indeed more than $10 million people who are in industry super funds—to know that industry super funds typically ask for more than 50 per cent of their directors to come from the unions, to be nominated by the unions so that these directors can supplement their incomes with a directorship of these industry super funds.

We know that Fair Work Australia has been discredited because of the Thomson affair. We know that of the last 10 appointments to Fair Work Australia, between December 2009 and December 2011, eight had union backgrounds.

Mr Tehan: How many?

Mr FRYDENBERG: The member for Wannon asked me how many had union backgrounds. Eight out of ten appointed to Fair Work Australia between December 2009 and December 2011 had union backgrounds. The member for Maribyrnong may want to know why the government has increased compulsory super from nine per cent to 12 per cent. The reason is that this will see more than $8 billion annually go into industry super funds. Who are the big beneficiaries in industry super funds? It is the unions—the unions that dominate the Labor Party and dictate the policy of the Labor Party.

Let me remind the House and all those that are listening around Australia to this telecast that only 12 per cent of Australians working in the private sector workforce are members of unions. In the general Australian workforce only 18 per cent are in a union. But on the front bench—and I am looking at you, the member for Maribyrnong—100 per cent are members of unions. In the caucus, 70 per cent are members of a union. One hundred per cent of the front bench are members of a union and 70 per cent of the caucus are former union officials. We talk about the gene pool of the Labor Party shrinking before our eyes. We know why: the unions are dominating the membership of the other side.

More and more members of the Australian workforce are giving up the union ticket because they want to have a say where their money goes. They want flexibility in the workplace. They want you to change your unfair dismissal laws. You owe it to them to loosen up your unfair dismissal laws. We want to get the regulation off the back of small business. We want to see some freedom in the workplace rather than just the unions dominating the show. Why did you increase super from nine per cent to 12 per cent? You did it because you wanted to see $8 billion a year flow back into the industry super funds. Member for Maribyrnong, why do 50 per cent of the votes at your federal conference automatically go to the Labor Party? Why have eight out of the 10 appointments to Fair Work Australia gone to people with union backgrounds?

Mr Tehan: Why don't pie shop workers have choices?

Mr FRYDENBERG: The member for Wannon asks: 'Why don't pie shop workers have choices?' Even those who cannot even warm a pie should have choice. Those who serve a cold pie and those who serve a warm pie should have choice. The problem is that in every aspect of workplace relations on your watch we have seen a reregulation of the labour market. This has cost jobs, this has sent up wages and this has seen lower productivity.

The CEO of Santos, David Knox, said on the front page of the Financial Review that if he was to open a gas facility in the Gulf of Mexico it would be one third of the price of opening a similar facility in Australia. Why? It is because wages are out of control in this country. Productivity, by any international standard, is falling in this country. We have more than five million Australians employed in more than two million small businesses, and they complain every day to me about the unfair dismissals and the penalty rates that the other side has introduced.

We need to get a smarter, more efficient and more effective workforce. We will not do that by letting the unions dictate the policies. Fair Work Australia is discredited under this government. Productivity has come down, wages have gone up and we have not seen an improvement in the bottom line of companies. When we look around the world we see the economic troubles that are facing Europe, the United States and elsewhere. What has this government decided to do? It has decided to re-regulate the workforce and send productivity down and wages up with no commensurate gain for the Australian people.

On this particular legislation before this House we are seeing those opposite play a sop to the union movement. Their union masters are dictating the policy that they bring into this House. This is a bad outcome for the workers of Australia because the Productivity Commission, an independent body which so often provides intelligent information for this House to consider, has found that you need to broaden out the default super funds beyond the industry super funds alone.

The industry super funds are a reflection of the vested interests of the union movement. This goes back to the Hawke and Keating years in the 1990s, when they sought to put industry super funds at the centre of our workplace relations system. Why do more than 50 per cent of the directors on the industry super funds come from the union movement when the union movement represents only 12 per cent of the private sector workforce and about 18 per cent of the general workforce? The number of people who are prepared to pay their union money has gone down year after year. People are voting with their feet.

I say to the members on this side of the House that we will take a tough, strong stance against the union dominated Labor Party, which is producing bad policy for the people based on politics alone. Default super funds deserve to be expanded beyond just industry funds and that is why we on this side will support changes in government and we on this side will not tolerate bad legislation from this government. (Time expired)