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Wednesday, 14 November 2018
Page: 8165


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (16:25): I am pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the issue:

Putting local workers first, including cracking down on 457 visas; using Australian grade steel; and protecting local manufacturers.

Look at what has happened in recent years. This government drove one of the highest skilled industries out of the country, the vehicle manufacturing industry. All over the world, countries queue up to try to get investment in high skill, high-tech manufacturing, yet what did this government do? It drove them out of the country. That has left workers in South Australia with no jobs or with jobs that pay far less. It has condemned workers to low-paying work in areas of South Australia. This government is pathetic when it comes to these issues.

On the issue of the old 457 visas, they've simply changed the name but everyone knows what the visa is. A report by Ms Bassina Farbenblum and Dr Laurie Berg entitled Wage theft in silence: why migrant workers do not recover their unpaid wages in Australia found that the majority of migrant workers are paid well below the minimum wage and only a few take the opportunity to try to recover the wages they are owed. Amongst international students and backpackers who acknowledge that they had been underpaid, the overwhelming majority suffered wage theft in silence. Less than one in 10 took action to recover the wages they were owed, only three per cent of underpaid participants contacted the Fair Work Ombudsman and well over half of them recovered none of their unpaid wages. Participants selected a range of rational reasons why they had not sought to address their underpayment: a quarter indicated fear of possible immigration consequences, close to half reported that they did not know what to do and many believed that they would not be successful. We considered this report in the references committee inquiry that was precipitated by Senator Molan backing Woolworths against cleaners in Woolworths stores. This report demonstrates that an epidemic of wage theft has taken place across this country during the coalition's time as a government—hopefully that won't be much longer.

Another area that was brought to my attention recently was the CFMEU dispute down at the Royal Hobart Hospital, where site induction training was conducted by the Master Builders Association, the MBA, which, all the time, backs these mad people that are running this muppet government. The CFMEU brought attention to a case of over 100 Chinese plasterers working at the Royal Hobart Hospital site. When the CFMEU came across them, those workers had gone unpaid for nine weeks. Workers' safety should not be left exposed on any site. Most of these workers spoke little or no English, and the site safety induction was delivered in English, courtesy of the Master Builders Association. The MBA took money from contractors to deliver the induction to workers who could not speak English and delivered that induction in the English language. The good news is that the CFMEU made sure those workers received back pay and were being paid properly. They recovered $1.132 million in entitlements. Good on the CFMEU!

The government's ABCC had done nothing at the Royal Hobart Hospital site. They'd been on the site nearly every day and had done nothing to help those workers. It just shows the bias in this organisation, the ABCC. It just shows that they don't care. They are simply an organisation set up by the coalition to attack the CFMEU and building workers. It is just outrageous. While Senator Cash and her fellow muppets are making it harder for unions to represent their members, employers and their associations are getting away with not paying workers their proper pay and delivering safety training in a language that the workers don't understand. How dopey is this? Rather than exploiting vulnerable workers on temporary work visas, employers need to be employing and training more Australian workers. Instead of punishing unions, the government should be working with unions to ensure workplaces are fair and safe.

We've got Senator Cash, now a disgraced minister who misled the Senate on five occasions and whose advisers actually breached the law and advised the press of an AFP raid on the AWU. This is a failed minister. This is a minister who, when she was finally caught out on this, turned on young women in the Leader of the Opposition's office and accused them of all sorts of crazy, unsavoury things that had no basis in fact. This minister is a disgrace. For this government to have Senator Cash sitting in the cabinet room is an example of how bad they are, how devoid they are of talent and how devoid they are of people who can do a job for the government.

The government's crocodile tears over skill shortages and Senator Cash's crocodile tears are disingenuous, because this government has failed to deliver anything over the last five years. If Senator Cash and the coalition paid more attention to improving vocational education, instead of attacking workers, attacking their unions and attacking each other, we might be in a better position in this country. We would not be in the mess we are in and we would not have this government that the former Prime Minister called 'mad' and the current Prime Minister declared were 'muppets'. This is a terrible government.

Under the draconian ABCC Building Code, unions and employers can't reach agreement to guarantee the employment of apprentices. On the one hand, they're saying there are no apprentices being employed and, on the other hand, they're stopping unions and employers reaching agreements that would give young kids in this country a fair go and give them an opportunity to get an apprenticeship. And what's the latest effort? At the same time as the OECD is reporting that Australia can't access global value chains due to the lack of skills in this country, the latest effort is for Senator Cash and the Prime Minister to cave in to Senator Hanson on this so-called bush wage. It's modelled on a thought bubble from Senator Hanson. A thought bubble from Senator Hanson isn't very big, let me tell you. We've got a situation where $60 million is going to be allocated to employers who have no record of looking after apprentices and who have not employed apprentices in the past. This is going to be at the expense of companies in the bush that have been employing apprentices for years. This is a nonsense. In Senator Cash's own state, there are 9,615 fewer apprentices, including more than 7,000 in trade occupations. This is a government that doesn't get it. When you suck up to Senator Hanson, when you suck up to a racist party like One Nation— (Time expired)