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Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Page: 1072

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (19:50): Thank you, Senator McKim. I have addressed quite a bit of your question several times this evening. In relation to what you said up front in relation to whether you had got what I said on the figure of 18 correct, the answer is that you were not correct. For the record, the question I was posed was how many tenders had been put out since the rules changed. Eighteen tenders have been put out.

More broadly, in relation to the question you asked, which has been asked by a number of senators today, I make the point again that the code is an opt-in scheme. You do not have to become code compliant if you do not wish. If you do not want to do Commonwealth-funded building work you do not have to. Companies can vary their agreements or make new agreements if they wish. If they do not wish to, they do not have to. The number of agreements that may require variation will depend on how many companies want to opt in to the system, are non-code compliant and want to be eligible to perform future Commonwealth-funded work.

Given that you have raised the issue again, I would also refer senators to past experiences with codes of this nature. You would be aware that this is not the first time that such a code has operated at a federal level or, indeed, even at a state level. Similar codes have been put in place, for example, in my home state of Western Australia and certainly in Victoria. The point I make here is that there was no transition period. This was the government's position, but we acknowledge that that was not accepted by the Senate.

In relation to those examples, though, where such codes have applied before there were numerous companies that were willing and perfectly able to become code compliant. There was no market failure. There was no shortage of competition to tender for government work. Any suggestion that this will be the case is simply not borne out by the actual evidence.