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Thursday, 27 November 2014
Page: 9547

Workplace Relations


Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:27): My question is to the Minister for Employment, Senator Abetz. Can the minister update the Senate on the current state of workplace relations in Victoria, and are there any threats to harmonious and productive workplaces in Victoria?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:27): Victorian workplaces, especially in the construction sector, have benefited from the introduction of the Victorian construction code. The industrial anarchy that characterised Victorian projects such as the notorious Wonthaggi plant has been removed. However, there is a very significant threat to productive and harmonious workplaces in Victoria. It is the CFMEU-inspired policy of Daniel Andrews to abolish Victoria's construction code. This is the code that upholds the rule of law and saves Victorian taxpayers from the billions of dollars of delays and blow-outs that plagued major projects under the last Labor government. The code even includes new drug and alcohol testing requirements to protect building workers and improve workplace safety, yet Labor's policy is to abolish that too. I wonder why. As former judge, Terence Cole, said this week:

Only a political party in thrall to the building unions would contemplate the state's building code.

Labor's policy is also to oppose the Commonwealth's building code, despite funding for major infrastructure projects being conditional on the code being applied—no code, no funding. So Labor threatens Victoria with a loss of billions of dollars for vital infrastructure projects. This is the cost to Victorians of Daniel Andrews' unseemly association with John Setka and the CFMEU. Daniel Andrews has not only outsourced his policy to the CFMEU; he has now even outsourced his costings to the CFMEU's accountants—and if he is elected on Saturday, he will outsource the rest of government policy to them, as well. (Time expired)


Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:29): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate of any other workplace relations policy proposals that may adversely affect the Victorian community?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:29): Another Labor policy is to hand over the management of the volunteer based Country Fire Authority to the firefighters union. This power is very serious. It relates to decisions about what are literally life-and-death matters. These powers should reside with the chief fire officer. What will be the impact of this policy? As the board of Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria said in an open letter, which I table, Labor's policy would have:

… disastrous consequences for CFA.

It goes on to say:

… Labor's policy will reduce CFA's volunteer firefighting force by thousands of volunteers, pushing volunteers out of CFA stations and hundreds of CFA trucks off the road when we need them for major fires such as Black Saturday.

This represents a clear risk to the health and safety of Victorians with the advent of a Labor government. (Time expired)


Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:31): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate of any threats to public health and safety in Victoria arising from any new workplace relations policies in that state?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:31): Labor policy to appease union bosses also involves handing control of Ambulance Victoria to the paramedics union. Ambulance Victoria has made a very generous wage offer to the union, including an immediate pay increase of six per cent. But the union has rejected it. What is Daniel Andrews's response? Sack the entire board of Ambulance Victoria and replace it with union stooges. The list of things that Daniel Andrews would sacrifice simply to please Victorian unions is staggering. He would sacrifice health and safety on building sites and billions of dollars in Commonwealth funds for vital infrastructure projects. He would even sacrifice independent management of the state's emergency services, which will put lives at risk. These are just the deals he has been game to announce before the election. One wonders what secret deals he has made. The health and welfare of Victorians will come last under a Labor government. (Time expired)