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Tuesday, 25 November 2003
Page: 22800

Mr ZAHRA (8:55 PM) —It is always fascinating to hear the Liberal Party talk about how many jobs are going to be created if only everyone would surrender their rights. They just pull figures out of the air. Today it is 50,000. It used to be 100,000. Who knows what it will be later on this evening! It could be 10,000. Tomorrow it could be 250,000. Who knows? Mr Deputy Speaker Adams, do you know why they do not know? Because it is not true. What they are saying in relation to this issue is not true and they are not to be believed.

The reason that we are here talking about the Workplace Relations Amendment (Improved Protection for Victorian Workers) Bill 2002 is because of the true agenda of the Liberal Party in relation to industrial relations. We are here because of what Jeff Kennett did in Victoria in 1993, when 400,000 Victorian workers were put out of the state industrial relations system that used to afford them some protection in relation to their basic rights and working conditions. That is why we are here today. The Liberal Party today, in bringing in this legislation, are simply correcting something which they themselves did in Victoria in 1993, when they put 400,000 workers out of a system that did provide them with some basic conditions, basic rights and some protection from abuses in the workplace by employers. When it comes to the Liberal Party, we always know what their true agenda is, not by what they say—

Mr Hockey —But by what we do!

Mr ZAHRA —but by what they do—exactly. We know what they do in the electorate of McMillan, because we have seen it time and time again. We try and foster a positive industrial relations culture in the Latrobe Valley and we have worked hard to create a positive environment for business in which we can have people working together to achieve mutual ends. But we have people who come into the area sometimes, like Yallourn Energy, who want to try and create conflict in the workplace. They want to create a circumstance in which an employer is taking action against employees with the support of the federal government in a way which is not conducive to a positive environment and a positive industrial relations climate.

We have seen these people at G&K O'Connor meatworks at Pakenham. We have seen an employer with a mad ideological agenda take action against its employees, which led to a lockout of 300-odd meat workers at Pakenham for more than nine months. This is the true agenda of the Liberal Party when it comes to industrial relations, so they can come in here and pretend that it is all about putting in place the environment in which employers can create these 100,000, 200,000 or 300,000 jobs, or whatever figure they come up with, or whatever figure they get from the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia.

In truth, what they are really about is breaking down people's wages and conditions and trying to put in place an industrial relations system which is not fair and which is all about trying to favour one group of people against another. Where is the national interest when it comes to the Liberal Party and when it comes to trying to have a fair industrial relations system which creates an environment in which people can achieve joint outcomes? I say that the Liberal Party are all about advantaging one side of the industrial relations debate, and that side is always the employer's. They always want to encourage the worst elements of employers in our community.

We are fortunate that we have a lot of very good employers in the electoral district of McMillan, but we do have bad employers too. One of those bad employers is G&K O'Connor meatworks in Pakenham. We do not want to see that type of situation again in the electoral district of McMillan. We do not want to see a lockout. We do not want to see people out of their jobs for nine months because of actions supported by the federal government.

Debate interrupted.