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Wednesday, 16 August 2017
Page: 5882

Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (18:09): Thanks, Senator Xenophon, for the constructive way you've put this. Can I just draw your attention again to the submission from the Fair Work Ombudsman, where the Deputy Fair Work Ombudsman spoke about this being for the most complex cases. This is not just for any issue. The Fair Work Ombudsman will still have the powers they have at the moment. There is no diminution, in these amendments, to the powers that the Fair Work Ombudsman already has. What the Fair Work Ombudsman put was that this was for the most complex cases. If you go to the bottom of page 6 on sheet 8144—that's the opposition amendments—and you look at (a), it says at the bottom 'that relates, directly or indirectly, to'. So there's a relationship on there that can be 'directly or indirectly'.

You have raised a number of other issues. You've raised unfair dismissal. You've raised bullying. You've raised discrimination. You've raised employment standards and compensation issues. As a former union official, I understand why you've raised all of those issues. We take the view that we would be prepared to amend this. When you go to the top of page 7 and you get Roman numeral (iii), we could add a Roman numeral (iv) and have appropriate words on unfair dismissal. We can do a Roman numeral (v) and do an appropriate set of words on bullying. We can do a Roman numeral (vi) on the discrimination, a Roman numeral (vii) on employment standards and a Roman numeral (viii) on compensation.

That would mean that, rather than this being a narrowing of the capacity of the Fair Work Ombudsman, it's a widening of the issues for the Fair Work Ombudsman, but it would be done in the context of the complex cases. The Fair Work Ombudsman didn't come and ask for powers to deal with the run-of-the-mill cases it deals with. I don't think it raised any of those issues during the hearings. It spoke about the most complex cases, and the bill has been proposed as protecting vulnerable workers.

So, Senator Xenophon, I put it to you that, if we make these changes, we will actually improve, and that's what this committee process is about. It's about improving amendments. It's about debating the issues, understanding the issues, having a bit of quid pro quo and dealing with the issues as they are raised. We believe that the issues you have raised can be attached to our amendment and cover all the concerns you have, and that would still then meet the issues you have raised. It would deal with the issues that the Fair Work Ombudsman have raised, and it would also ensure that the ideological attacks that this government has done in the past will not be done in this case.

So we are saying: we hear what you're saying; we accept what you're saying; we will amend our amendments to deal with it, but, on that basis, we should not be using this bill for anything other than what the Fair Work Ombudsman asked for and what the minister has publicly said it stands for. That would fix the problem. So I ask you what your view would be on that.