Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 5 March 2015
Page: 1337

Commonwealth Cleaning Service Guidelines


Senator LINES (Western Australia) (15:00): My question is to the Minister for Employment, Senator Abetz. I refer to the $2 an hour pay cut for cleaners at the Department of Immigration and Border Protection due to his abolition of the Commonwealth Cleaning Service Guidelines. Can the minister confirm he misled the Senate on 7 July 2014 when he said 'nobody has had a pay cut' because of his decision and declared, 'I categorically deny that anyone's wages have been cut in any way, shape or form'? Will he now correct the record?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (15:01): The premise of the question is clearly false. As I indicated earlier this week in answer to a question, the—

Senator Jacinta Collins: Are you being tricky?

Senator ABETZ: That needs to be withdrawn. That is outrageous.

An opposition senator: She said 'tricky'.

Senator ABETZ: Did you say 'tricky'?

Senator Jacinta Collins: Yes.

Senator ABETZ: I misheard and I am willing accept that.

The simple fact is that the premise of the question is false. At no time did anybody get a pay cut with a removal of the regulation. It was removed in July and the allegation was that people's pay would be cut. Was anybody's pay cut because of the removal of the regulation in July?

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator ABETZ: No, not in July—thank you, very much. In August? Not in August. In September? No. In recent times, there has been a new contract entered into and that new contract has, as part of it, that the cleaners would be paid according to the union negotiated enterprise bargaining agreement. Therefore, if it is asserted that these people are being underpaid, being paid less than they deserve, it is not a reflection on myself; it is a reflection on the trade union movement that negotiated that enterprise agreement, which according to Senator Lines, sees these people allegedly being underpaid. Let us be very clear: a new contract was entered into and when new contracts are entered into parameters, regrettably, change from time to time—as the CFMEU found out in Senator Lines's own home state. (Time expired)








Senator LINES (Western Australia) (15:03): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Will the minister guarantee that wages will not be cut by any other departments as a result of the government abolishing the cleaning guidelines?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (15:03): As with all contracts, they come up for negotiation from time to time and it stands to reason that sometimes the employees will be paid under the Fair Work Commission modern award that is applicable or an enterprise bargaining agreement sanctioned by Labor's Fair Work Commission. That will determine the pay rate for those workers. If Senator Lines has a problem with the modern award or with a union negotiated enterprise bargaining agreement—

The PRESIDENT: Pause the clock.

Senator Lines: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. The question was: can the minister guarantee?

The PRESIDENT: The minister is addressing the question and he has 23 seconds left in which to answer.

Senator ABETZ: I cannot guarantee whether or not the unions will look after their members in a manner that Senator Lines would like them to be looked after.

Senator Lines: Mr President, I rise on a further point of order. The question asked: will the minister guarantee that wages will not be cut by departments—nothing to do with unions.

The PRESIDENT: The minister just said he could not guarantee, so I think the minister is being directly relevant.

Senator ABETZ: The reason I cannot guarantee is because it is the trade union that will be negotiating these matters and this is a huge vote of no confidence by Senator Lines in the union. (Time expired)









Senator LINES (Western Australia) (15:05): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. What sort of government makes it a political priority to attack the living wage of some of the lowest paid workers in Australia by cutting $2 an hour from their weekly pay packet?

Senator ABETZ: As I have already said, not on one occasion or two occasions but on three occasions earlier this week during question time, that the premise of that question is false. What I can say to Senator Lines is this: the average family today is $550 better off because we abolished Labor's carbon tax. Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.