Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 13 September 2007
Page: 86

Mr McARTHUR (2:58 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Would the minister inform the House how the government’s employment and workplace policies are helping the long-term unemployed find work? Is the minister aware of any threats to this contribution?

Mr Melham —Bradman got a duck in his last innings, Joe—bad analogy!

Mr HOCKEY (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —He averaged 72 in his last test series, Daryl—better than anyone else! I thank the member for Corangamite for his question and note that he was a farmer before coming into this place. I bet he has a union official running against him on behalf of the Labor Party. Is that right? I bet that union official does not even live in his seat—just like North Sydney, where the Labor candidate does not live in the seat. It is true that the government remains absolutely committed to putting in place policies that help to deliver higher real wages, more jobs and fewer strikes. The government is committed to the goal that every Australian who wants to get a job can get a job, because that is what full employment is. It is amazing that we are the only government—certainly in the last 33 years and perhaps even since that Blues Point Tower deal—that could ever talk about full employment. Policies such as workplace relations reform and Welfare to Work have helped to deliver the infrastructure that has allowed business to employ more people and head towards full employment.

The fact of the matter is that Australia is running out of workers. We are not replacing ourselves as a nation. Our birthrate is not high enough to replace ourselves, so we need to have policies that are innovative—and even, some would say, courageous—that actually encourage people to get into work and to get off welfare. There are only three places you can get the workers of tomorrow: firstly, you can have more children—

Mr Costello —Have one for the country.

Mr HOCKEY —Have one for mum, one for dad and one for Australia. The $5,000 baby bonus is a great incentive to do that.

Mr Howard —You still have one to go, Joe.

Mr HOCKEY —That is right; I have one more to go. I do not have much say in it, unfortunately. Secondly, we can massively increase immigration. We do not agree with that. We actually think we have the immigration levels about right. The third area where we can get the workers is to get some of those two million Australians who are on welfare and not working into work. They are of working age. We have to try to access that pool. This government had the courage to introduce Welfare to Work initiatives that moved people from welfare into work. Of course the Labor Party opposed it all the way and said that we were heartless. The bottom line is that having a 4.3 per cent unemployment rate and having higher real wages is not heartless; it is actually the greatest form of welfare you could possibly deliver.

Today I am releasing a report entitled Building stronger families: the benefits of moving from welfare to work. It gives a snapshot of the success of the initiative. Why do we undertake these policies? It is because we are about the future welfare of the Australian people. We are about helping Australians to have more jobs and higher real wages. Of course when the Labor Party released its workplace relations policy it did not say anything about jobs. It did not say anything about higher real wages. It did not say anything about economic prosperity. It was just a deal between the union bosses, who make up 70 per cent of the Labor frontbench—and others are coming in like Combet, Shorten and Dougie Cameron—and the Labor Party. That sort of deal is bad for Australian workers and it is bad for Australian families. If you ever want to think carefully about what the implications will be of electing a Rudd Labor government then look no further than the fact that 70 per cent of his frontbench are former union officials. Does anyone really believe for a second that in government he would have the courage to stand up to his entire frontbench and a union movement that is spending millions of dollars to get him elected? Does anyone believe that for a second? No. The reason is that the Labor Party will always put the jobs of the union bosses ahead of the jobs of Australian working families.