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Thursday, 14 February 2008
Page: 383

Ms JULIE BISHOP (2:21 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Minister for Education and Minister for Social Inclusion. Will the minister guarantee that her preferred workplace agreement—union negotiated collective agreements—do not take away award conditions such as penalty rates and leave loading?

Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) —I was waiting for page 2, but page 2 did not come. For a former minister of the Howard government who claimed to care so much about literacy, it would be really useful if the Deputy Leader of the Opposition read Labor’s policy. If she is in any doubt about how to find it, it is on the internet. We campaigned on it for all of 2007. I will send it to her. The policy contains the answer, and I will give it to you now. The policy is Forward with Fairness. You should read it. And if you did read it, you would know that we do not have a preferred industrial instrument in Forward with Fairness; we talk about creating a fair and balanced system in which people have choice. People have choice, if they want to, to negotiate a collective agreement. They can do that with or without the assistance of a trade union. That is a matter for them, because that is a basic freedom of association matter. Alternatively, they can choose to not collectively bargain; they can choose to have individual agreements. The important thing about those individual agreements is that they stand on top of the safety net. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition and her party today voted for a continuation of Work Choices—

Ms Julie Bishop —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The question was simple: will she guarantee—

Mr Debus —On what grounds?

Ms Julie Bishop —Relevance! Will she guarantee that union negotiated collective agreements will not take away award conditions, including penalty rates and leave loadings? Will she guarantee? Yes or no?

Ms GILLARD —What I am trying to do is to explain the equivalent of complex mathematics to someone who cannot count, so it does require a bit of explanation. Under Labor’s full system, you will have a choice as to whether you have a collective agreement or an individual common-law contract. You might want to concentrate here, because you might learn something: the collective agreement is not lawful unless it passes a full no-disadvantage test against the award. That means that people under a collective agreement have to do better than the award. How is that different from the current system? Under the current system, award conditions can be ripped away without any compensation—redundancy pay gone, notice of change of shift gone. You believe in that, you voted for its continuation today.

Mr Jenkins —Order! The Deputy Prime Minister should just be a bit careful about which ‘you’ she is talking about. She should address her remarks through the chair.