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Monday, 3 June 2013
Page: 4725

Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (10:46): The member for Parramatta just spoke about there being not a lot of room in family budgets and I am sure, having doorknocked 70,000 homes in her electorate, she has been told that time and again. The reason there is not a lot of room in family budgets in this day and age is that day-to-day costs of living have been forced up and up and up, because of the policies brought down by this federal Labor government.

We heard in last year's budget speech by the Treasurer in the very first paragraph 'the four years of surpluses I announced tonight' and he went on. We all know that that is now no longer the case—more like four years of deficits. In this year's budget speech, the Treasurer referred in his second sentence 'to support jobs and growth in an uncertain world' as he talked about the need to consolidate the economy. Under his vision he thinks that jobs and growth are necessary, and he would get no disagreement from this side of politics. If we are lucky enough to form government, we will go about it. We will be far removed from the way he has gone about it in his years as Treasurer—because he has done nothing but produce debt and deficit. In the last two budgets the introductory remarks by the Treasurer belonged more in the fiction than the nonfiction section.

The Fair Work Commission is the industrial umpire with responsibility to make and vary modern awards—something which will continue under a coalition government. It is vital that the Fair Work Commission look objectively at these matters and reach a balance between the needs of workers, their employers and, most importantly, the national interest. Governments of all colours and creeds have conventionally made submissions in significant cases before that umpire, and it is something that will continue, as it has in the past, irrespective of the result of the 14 September election. If anything, under Labor, the government's intervention has been called out as being too one-sided, leading to the High Court criticising the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations as meddling in an education union case as being 'not that of an intervener, but that of a partisan'.

The interaction between labour costs and job growth is something that the Fair Work Commission is required to consider under Labor's laws but, even the member for Batman, in his former capacity as the Minister for Tourism, publicly observed that penalty rates were a major obstacle for the industry in these difficult times, when he said:

I hope the bench of Fair Work Australia has given proper regard to the input of the tourism industry in this context because I understand that is the key issue to industry at this point in time.

This is about fairness and sustainability and, as the Treasurer noted, talking about supporting jobs and growth, you cannot have a job if the employer shuts the shop because the cost for that particular business owner are too high. Onerous workplace conditions impose great burdens on businesses, particularly in regional Australia.

Small towns have beautified their streetscapes, thanks to considerable investment by local councils, and they encourage weekend visitors, but, the way we are going, it is getting harder and harder to get a cup of coffee or a meal on a Saturday or Sunday or indeed a weekday night because of onerous workplace wages and conditions forcing the owners to work seven days and seven nights a week rather than employing people as they would have done in the past. If they go down that path, they are going to be working many, many hours. Their families miss out—because a lot of them have children—but, if they employ people and have to pay the higher and higher penalty rates, they simply cannot make a profit. Therefore what is the point of working for so many hours and paying the higher electricity bills due to the carbon tax and higher fuel costs—depending what business they own—due to the carbon tax, with all the other burdens that are being forced on them and prices which are going up and up under this Labor government?

This is about jobs and growth, and certainly nothing this government has done has ever helped those two important aspects of the economy: jobs and growth. We need to be very mindful of this particular resolution because what we need is fairness and equity and businesses to stay open. (Time expired)