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Monday, 2 May 2016
Page: 4089


Ms CHESTERS (Bendigo) (11:03): I move:

That this House:

(1) notes the Government's multiple attacks on the pay, rights and conditions of workers, including but not limited to:

(a) advocating for a reduction in penalty rates;

(b) issuing temporary licences, which resulted in Australian seafarers being sacked;

(c) abolishing the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal;

(d) pursuing legislation that would ensure workers on construction sites have less rights than 'ice' dealers;

(e) the attempted reintroduction of unfair individual contracts;

(f) the failure to address widespread and system exploitation of workers; and

(g) the unfair, ideological bargaining policy which forces agencies to strip rights and conditions from enterprise agreements and offer cuts to pay in real terms;

(2) condemns the Government for its employment and workplace relations agenda; and

(3) calls on the Government to abandon its attacks on the pay, rights and conditions of workers in Australia.

This government's attack on workers is unprecedented. Around the country today and over the weekend tens of thousands of workers stopped to acknowledge May Day. I say 'acknowledge' and not 'celebrate', because Australian workers have very little to celebrate at the moment, and that is largely the result of this government and the attacks that it has made on the pay and conditions of Australian workers. This includes its advocacy for cutting penalty rates and, in particular, Sunday penalty rates.

Numerous members and ministers on the government side have stood up and said that penalty rates should be cut for people working in the hospitality and retail sectors. This would devastate some of our lowest paid workers, who quite often speak up about how penalty rates, particularly the Sunday penalty rates, are paying their bills. Somebody who I was chatting to on the weekend at one of my listening posts said that her Sunday penalty rate is how she pays not just for her internet bill and her children's swimming lessons but for those things that others would not consider a luxury: the household items. Most of her weekly wage goes on paying rent and paying electricity bills, but her Sunday penalties pay for the extras.

This government has introduced legislation attacking working conditions that continues to get rejected by the Senate, and for good reason. Its bills and its agendas seek to weaken Australian workplace relations. One particular bill—which was the reason why this parliament was reopened—that related to registered organisations sought to impose more red tape on our industrial relations sector, not less. This government has tried to introduce individual flexibility agreements—which would see basic wages and conditions being negotiated away—that are enforced by an employer, that are not checked by the Fair Work Commission and that would be put into the bottom drawer and forgotten about, leaving the worker with few grounds on which to appeal them.

This government has issued temporary licences which have resulted in thousands of seafarers—many of whom are on the lawn again today—being sacked for being Australian. Their wages and conditions have been undermined. This is an island nation, yet we have seen thousands of Australian seafarers lose their jobs as a result of this government's inaction.

We have also seen this government try again and again to pursue legislation that would see our workers on construction sites have less rights than many others in our community. What we are saying is quite simple: the rule of law already exists in every Australian workplace in every facet of Australian life; it should be the same rule for all; there should be one rule for all. Yet this government, because of its vendetta and hatred of a particular union, is now taking us to an election based upon a small part of industrial relations law which would see construction workers discriminated against and treated differently.

There is also the treatment of this government's own workforce. Not only has this government sacked over 16,000 public servants—and they are foreshadowing to sack more in tomorrow's budget—they have failed to genuinely bargain with their workforce. They have set an appalling example for corporate Australian by not bargaining in good faith. Their bargaining framework effectively said to their workforce, 'You find your own pay rise. Cut your conditions to fund your pay rise.' Today we have seen a leak from inside Centrelink that shows that, because of staffing cuts, thousands upon thousands of students applying for Newstart have had their claims automatically rejected. This is a fault of this government's making. It is because of their failure to listen to their own workforce, their failure to bargain in good faith and their failure to resource properly.

In this motion, we condemn the government for its lack of a workplace relations agenda that is fair. We call on the government to abandon its attacks on the pay, rights and conditions of all Australian workers. It is time for this government to listen to Australian workers instead of attack them.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mrs Wicks ): I thank the member for Bendigo. Is there a seconder for this motion?

Ms Vamvakinou: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.