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Thursday, 1 June 2000
Page: 16838


Mr BEVIS (12:40 PM) —The member for Corangamite is a fine person and I am delighted to have his support for our proposal that there should be bargaining in good faith. The danger that the member for Corangamite has fallen into is that if you are sitting outside the chamber, you have the TV on listening to the debate and you hear something and think, `Gee, I'd better rush in' but you have not actually read the legislation, you do not know what the bill is and you do not know what the amendments are, you can make a few mistakes. And he just made a few. The proposal in my amendment to the Workplace Relations Amendment Bill 2000 is to put into his government's law a requirement that there be bargaining in good faith. I am delighted to have your support, Stewie. So I look forward to your crossing the floor, voting with us and demonstrating to Mr Reith that his legislation is flawed and that, at least in this respect, you think the opposition, the Labor Party, is right.

Maybe I should have started with a quick run-down of the amendment, but I was too tempted to say some things about the minister for workplace relations—he is always a good target to start with. I succumbed to that last time so, given that we have a guillotine on this and there is less than 20 minutes left for the parliament to consider this matter, I will quickly make some comments about the amendment I have moved. In my introduction I did point to the key aspects that the amendment is targeting. I want to refer to the two broad areas. This amendment seeks to remove every single clause of the bill before the parliament moved by the government, Make no mistake: we are opposed to that bill and everything in it.

But we want to take this opportunity to say to the parliament, `There are alternatives and better ways of doing things.' So we have moved a series of amendments to the principal act as an indicative measure of what might be done by government if it was fair-dinkum about establishing a fair system. We propose new principal objects of the act. As set out in the amendment, the very first principle that we think should be there guiding the Industrial Commission and setting out what we think an industrial relations system is about is:

(a) encouraging the pursuit of high employment, improved living standards, better pay, low inflation and international competitiveness through higher productivity and a flexible and fair labour market.

I think that is a fine principle to set out as the first object of the act, and it is one that is not reflected in the current objects of the act. We have also included the following object:

enabling the Commission to prevent and settle industrial disputes

(i) so far as possible by conciliation; and

(ii) where necessary, by arbitration.

Frankly, most Australians expect that. And throughout our history as a nation that has been the system that has been in place. It is only this government that has jettisoned the bipartisanship on that point, a bipartisanship that basically goes back to 1904. So we have a government that is so extreme in its position that it adopts a view not even shared by other conservative governments.

I want to also quickly refer to the amendment that repeals section 89A. This is the section in the current act that limits the powers of the commission to deal with a whole range of things—it says it is only allowed to deal with 20 allowable matters. This has been the cause of the inability of the commission to deal properly with these things that has been at the core of many of the disputes that have occurred. It is why we see industrial relations played out in courts—Federal Court, High Court, state Supreme Courts. It is very much because of that particular section. So we are proposing to remove that and we are putting in place what we believe is an alternative model that would allow the commission to have the scope to reconsider those things that have been stripped out by the government's 20 allowable matters legislation.

The other area that is important that is included in this series of amendments is the introduction of a requirement that parties must genuinely try to reach agreement. That is a fair test. It is one that I now know the member for Corangamite endorses. We are seeking to put in place some clear guidance in the act that that should be so for all parties in industrial matters. And, of course, the commission needs to be able to have authority to deal with those things. At the moment, it cannot because this government—and the member for Corangamite voted for it—actually took out of the Labor Party's former legislation the fair bargaining provisions, removed them and then kneecapped the commission so it no longer had the authority to deal with the raft of those issues that are normally conducted in industrial relations. (Time expired)